Creamy Pasta Sauce
Creamy Pasta Sauce is tender pasta noodles tossed in a creamy tomato sauce. This recipe is very similar to pink sauce pasta, but lightened up. A hearty main course that’s easy enough for a busy weeknight, but elegant and tasty enough to serve for a date night dinner! Add fresh basil and you’ll have a restaurant quality meal in the comfort of your own home!
Made this last night, it was delicious! My husband couldn’t believe how good it was. This will definitely be going into our regular rotation.— Kathleen
I always order rigatoni tossed in a creamy pasta sauce when dining at my local Italian restaurant. It’s my favorite, so I totally had to try and recreate the deliciousness. That silky smooth and flavorful sauce just can’t be beat! Luckily, this homemade version turned out SO good and was super quick + easy to make. In 30 minutes you’ll have an amazing dinner on the table. Try this dish with some baked chicken or grilled salmon for added protein!
This is a luxurious mix of onion, garlic, prosciutto, crushed tomatoes and cream (in the form of half & half), that you can cook quickly on your stove top.
Why you’ll love this recipe
- Easy to make. Rigatoni tossed in creamy tomato pasta sauce is one of those simple recipes that has minimal ingredients, but is just so delicious and satisfying. Not only is this recipe easy, but it’s quick too!
- Restaurant quality. My homemade version tastes just like the dish I get at our local Italian restaurant. I think it’s even tastier, though!
- Lightened up. This is basically a pink pasta sauce because we’re combining cream and tomatoes. However, this creamy tomato sauce is a lighter version of the traditional pink sauce recipe with the use of half & half instead of heavy cream. You also won’t find any extra oil, butter or dairy (other than the half & half).
The key to an incredible tomato cream sauce is to get the best quality ingredients that you can. This sauce recipe has tons of wonderful flavors thanks to the combination of prosciutto, sautéed onions + garlic, tomatoes and half & half. Here’s everything you’ll need:
- Pasta. I like using rigatoni noodles, but feel free to use any pasta shape you’d like. Gluten-free noodles work, too.
- Prosciutto. Kind of like a more elegant bacon and absolutely makes this sauce. A must!
- Onion + garlic. Sautéed diced onion and garlic adds delicious aromatic flavor.
- Crushed tomatoes. Canned at the peak of ripeness, canned crushed tomatoes are loaded with sweet, juicy tomato flavor. They’re the base of the recipe, so I like to use a high-quality tomato, like San Marzano.
- Salt + basil. Salt will bring out all of the flavor and fresh basil has a slightly sweet taste that helps to cut the acidity of the tomatoes.
- Half & half. For all that delicious creaminess!
How to make this recipe
You may have tried other creamy pasta sauce recipes, but this one’s the BEST! It’s also super easy! Here’s a quick rundown of how to make this recipe:
Find the full, printable recipe in the recipe card, below.
- Cook pasta. The first step is to get your pasta boiling and cook according to package instructions and till al dente. While that is cooking, you can be making the sauce. I typically use rigatoni pasta, which is pictured, but you can use other noodles; such as penne, rotini or cavatappi.
- Sauté prosciutto, onion & garlic. In a large skillet, over medium heat, sauté the chopped prosciutto and onion in a little olive oil cooking spray. Once onions are translucent, add in garlic and cook another minute more.
- Cook tomatoes. Add in the tomatoes and season with salt. Simmer for about 10 minutes and then stir in fresh basil and the half & half.
- Combine tomato sauce with pasta. Taste the tomato sauce for seasoning and adjust, as needed. Then, stir in the cooked pasta. Enjoy garnished with a little fresh basil and Parmesan cheese!
Tips for recipe success
This creamy tomato pasta recipe is super easy, but here are a few tips to make sure it’s absolutely perfect every time!
- Cooking pasta. Don’t forget to season the water with plenty of salt before adding in the noodles; otherwise this dish may taste under-seasoned. As a general rule of thumb, I add 1 teaspoon salt per 4 cups of water.
- Prosciutto. Prosciutto is an Italian style dry-cured ham that is available in the deli area of most grocery stores. You could substitute with regular bacon or pancetta, which will give this sauce a similar flavor.
- Tomatoes. I prefer to use Italian San Marzano tomatoes in this dish for the most authentic flavor. This type of tomato can be found in large cans with the rest of the tomato products.
- Half & half. Instead of heavy whipping cream, we’re using half & half. Half & half is much lower in fat than heavy cream, but will give this sauce enough creaminess that you’ll never even notice. You can definitely substitute with heavy cream or even whole milk, if preferred.
Frequently asked questions
There are several different cream-based sauces. The most popular is Alfredo sauce, which is a rich, creamy white sauce mixed with butter and grated Parmesan cheese. There are also the classic pink sauce recipes, which usually call for heavy cream, milk and parmesan cheese. This particular pink sauce doesn’t appear very pink because of the fairly small amount of cream in ratio to the tomatoes. In addition, half & half isn’t as thick and rich as heavy whipping cream.
Recipes like this one can be made with half and half or fresh cream. Either one will give a wonderful balance of flavor and creaminess.
Whole milk or even a dairy-free milk, like almond milk, will work just fine in this recipe. They just won’t thicken quite like half and half or cream.
While this dish is fabulous as-is, you can absolutely add other ingredients to use what you have available and customize the flavors to your tastes.
- Pasta. Switch up the noodles and try using farfalle, rotini, ziti, spaghetti, or penne instead of rigatoni. Or use a healthier pasta alternative such as chickpea cavatappi, veggie rotini, or lentil penne.
- Protein. Try topping the finished dish with grilled or baked chicken, sautéed shrimp, sliced Italian sausage or serve my parmesan baked cod on the side.
- Vegetables. Mix in some roasted or sautéed veggies such as broccoli, mushrooms, asparagus, bell peppers, or zucchini. You could even add in a few handfuls of spinach.
- Extra add-ins. You can stir in chopped or sliced kalamata olives, chopped sun dried tomatoes, chopped artichokes, and/or pine nuts.
- Cheese. Add a sprinkle of parmesan cheese as garnish, or stir shredded mozzarella cheese into the sauce.
When I serve creamy tomato sauce pasta, I like to keep the sides pretty simple because this is one satisfying dish. Here are some of my favorite pairing options:
- Salad. A green salad, such as this Italian salad always goes well with pasta and pink sauce. You could also make a fresh green salad by tossing mixed greens with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Feel free to add toppings to your salad such as red onion, cherry tomatoes, and croutons.
- Vegetables. Either roasted Brussels sprouts or roasted broccoli would be delicious as a side dish.
- Bread. Don’t let any of the scrumptious creamy tomato sauce go to waste! Sop it up with a crusty loaf of your favorite bread.
This recipe makes a big batch and reheats well, so it’s a great recipe to cook at the beginning of the week, then keep on hand for fast, healthy meals all week long.
- Storing leftovers. Keep leftovers in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 4 to 5 days.
- To reheat. Gently rewarm leftovers in a Dutch oven or large pot on the stovetop over medium-low heat, splashing in broth, cream, almond milk, regular milk or water as needed to loosen the sauce. You can also reheat this recipe in the microwave.
- Freezing. Store pasta with sauce in a freezer-safe airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
I don’t often beg readers to make a specific recipe—I truly love them all, so doing so feels a little like playing favorites—but this creamy pasta sauce is an exception. Once you try this dish, you’ll find yourself making it on a regular basis. It’s just that good!
If you try this recipe, let me know! Leave a comment and if your family loves this recipe as much as mine does, be sure to give it a five star ⭐️ rating! Also, tag @kimscravings on Instagram with a picture of your creation. It’s so fun to see what you’re cooking! Be sure to subscribe to our mailing list to receive more healthy delicious recipes straight to your inbox.
Creamy Pasta Sauce
- 1 pound pasta (rigatoni, spaghetti, penne or any other favorite), use gluten-free pasta as needed
- 6 slices prosciutto, chopped
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
- 1 cup half and half , (you can use fat free, if preferred)*
- Cook the pasta according to package directions in salted water. While pasta is cooking, sauté the prosciutto and onion over medium heat with olive oil spray until the onions are translucent (about 5 minutes). Add the garlic and cook for another minute more.
- Add the tomatoes and season with salt. Simmer for about 10 minutes.
- Stir in the basil and half and half. Taste for seasoning.
- Combine tomato sauce with the cooked pasta. Enjoy!
- Leftovers. Store leftovers in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- To reheat. Gently rewarm leftovers in a Dutch oven or large pot on the stovetop over medium-low heat, splashing in broth, cream, almond milk, regular milk or water as needed to loosen the sauce. You can also reheat in the microwave.
- Freezing. Store pasta with sauce in an airtight freezer-safe storage container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.