Creamy Tomato Pasta

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Easy to make and comforting, this Creamy Tomato Pasta is a simple dish for any family dinner. Serve it as a meatless meal, or pair it with your favorite protein. We often add chicken or shrimp and a veggie to complete this meal. This recipe has an extra depth of flavor thanks to tomato paste and a touch of garlic.

Side view of Creamy Tomato Pasta in a white bowl with a fork in the side of the pasta bowl.

Pasta paired with a simple homemade sauce must be one of life’s greatest pleasures! It’s just a bonus that pasta is pretty easy to make.

Tomato paste is a key ingredient to this recipe because it adds a deep tomato flavor to the sauce without hours of simmering! Pairing it with cream and dry white wine (optional) makes this a restaurant-worthy pasta dish.

Keep this creamy tomato pasta ultra simple, or add the optional chicken or shrimp listed in the recipe.

Straight down view of Creamy Tomato Pasta in a white bowl with a fork on the side.

Ingredients & Substitutions

Diced tomatoes, parmesan, heavy cream, tomato paste, olive oil, garlic, and onion.
  • Pasta – this tomato sauce pairs well with noodle-shaped pasta and most shapes. My top picks would be fettuccine, linguine, or tagliatelle. For shapes, I’ve used penne, farfalle (bowties), fusilli, and caserrecce.
  • Tomatoes – I like combining diced fire-roasted tomatoes and tomato paste for depth of flavor. You can also use regular diced tomatoes, but I wouldn’t sub in tomato sauce unless you have to. Tomato sauce is often acidic, depending on the brand, and sometimes has added herbs and salt, which takes away from the simplicity of this sauce.
  • Onion & garlic – diced onion and freshly minced garlic adds great depth to this sauce. Try using a garlic press to speed up the mincing rather than jarred garlic.
  • Heavy whipping cream – with 36%-40% fat. You don’t want to use anything with a lower fat content because it will likely curdle in your sauce. Milk or half-and-half will not work properly in this sauce. Unsweetened coconut cream could be substituted for dairy-free, but you will notice a little coconut flavor. Refer to the dietary section below for more options.
  • Parmesan – a touch added to the sauce and more sprinkled over the top of your pasta makes this dish.
  • Dry white wine – is completely optional, but it does add a ‘fancy’ depth of flavor, much like a pasta dish you’d get at a restaurant. It’s important that you don’t use anything sweet. Look for good pasta sauce wine options for Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, or Pinot Gris.

How to make this recipe step by step

Dicing up a white onion on a wood cutting board with a chef's knife.

Step 1: Start by dicing up the onion and using a garlic press to mince the garlic.

Sautéing the onion and garlic together in a skillet with a wood spoon.

Step 2: Next sauté the onion and garlic over medium to medium-low heat until they’re entirely softened.

You don’t want to rush this process because you’ll end up with crunchy onions in the finished sauce.

Adding the tomato to the sautéed onion mixture in a skillet.

Step 3: Deglaze the pan with the optional white wine, simmer briefly, and add the diced tomatoes and tomato paste.

Adding the cream to the tomato mixture in a large skillet.

Step 4: Break up the tomato paste with the back of a wooden spoon, then add the heavy cream to the pan.

Side view of the reduced creamy tomato sauce in a skillet.

Step 5: Stir to thoroughly combine the tomato paste with the sauce while you bring it to a simmer.

Simmer over very low heat until the flavors are combined and the onion is very soft, 8-10 minutes.

Tossing the cooked pasta together with the creamy tomato sauce in a large pot.

Step 6: While the sauce simmers, cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water.

When the pasta and sauce are done, toss them together while lightly simmering to allow the sauce to adhere to the pasta. Serve immediately with fresh parmesan and chopped basil when in season.

Side view of the finished Creamy Tomato Sauce in a white bowl with a blue and white linen in the background.

Ways to serve this


Can I add milk to this tomato sauce?

Milk shouldn’t be added to tomato sauce because it will curdle. Heavy whipping cream works best for a creamy tomato sauce because it has a high-fat content that doesn’t curdle in this recipe.

What can I use instead of heavy cream in tomato pasta sauce?

I’ve swirled in full-fat sour cream to tomato pasta sauce once the sauce is off the heat. Sour cream will curdle if boiled but can be added after cooking. Softened cream cheese also works, but it’s harder to whisk into the tomato sauce. I’ve also had good luck tossing cooked pasta with the cooked tomato sauce and stirring in creme fraiche off the heat. Again, you don’t want to boil it, or it will curdle.

Storing leftovers

  • To store – place the leftovers into an airtight container and store them in the refrigerator for 5-7 days.
  • Make ahead – the sauce can be made ahead up to the point where you add the parmesan and store it in the fridge for 4-5 days. Simply reheat the sauce when you’re ready to cook the pasta and add the parmesan right before you toss it with the pasta.
  • Reheating – pasta with cream sauce can be tricky to reheat because the sauce sometimes separates into an unappealing pool of grease forms. You can avoid this by reheating your leftovers in a skillet over medium heat and adding water to keep the sauce from separating.
  • To freeze – you can freeze pasta for up to 3 months in an airtight container, but I personally don’t recommend it because it’s on the mushy side when you defrost it.
Close up side view of Creamy Tomato Pasta in a white bowl.

Tips & Tricks

  • The dry white wine listed is optional here and can omitted for a family-friendly recipe. However, it adds a nice depth of flavor that can make this simple dish taste ‘restaurant fancy’ when you want to make an impression or for date nights.
  • Make this sauce ahead right up until the step where you add the parmesan cheese to make entertaining simpler. Then, when you’re ready to serve this sauce, heat it over medium heat until it simmers, add the parmesan, season it to taste, and serve.
  • Try not to boil the sauce once you add the parmesan cheese. This can cause the cheese to become grainy in the sauce.
  • Try adding some red pepper flakes for a bit of heat. Add them at the same time as the white wine.
  • Fresh herbs are delicious in this sauce. Add 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme or rosemary just after cooking the onion. Or, for a lighter flavor, try a large handful of fresh basil or a sprinkling of parsley added in right at the end. Basil is our favorite; it’s a classic combo you can’t beat.
  • Freshly grated parmesan really does taste better, and the texture is better as well, which adds a lot to this simple pasta dish.

Dietary Options & Substitutions

  • Dairy-free – my favorite dairy-free option is to swirl in dairy-free cream cheese (like Kite Hill) to taste after cooking the sauce. Or you can use the Vegan Alfredo Sauce option instead of the heavy cream and dairy-free/vegan parmesan cheese or omit the cheese altogether. You can also use the coconut milk option. Use a dairy-free parmesan for the top, or omit it altogether.
Close up straight down view of Creamy Tomato Pasta in a white bowl sprinkled with chopped parsley and grated parmesan.

I hope you enjoy this Creamy Tomato Pasta! If you do get a chance to make this recipe, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Side view of the finished Creamy Tomato Sauce in a white bowl with a blue and white linen in the background.

Creamy Tomato Pasta

5 from 1 vote
Author: Kari Peters
Total Time 30 minutes
Yield: 6
Course: Dinner


  • 1 tbsp olive oil - extra virgin
  • 1 small onion - finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic - minced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine - optional, Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio
  • 14 ounces fire roasted canned diced tomatoes
  • 6 ounces tomato paste - 1 can
  • 1 cup heavy whipped cream - see notes for dairy-free
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan - plus more for serving
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt - more or less to taste
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper - more for serving
  • 12 ounces pasta - see notes, penne, tagliatelle, fettuccini, etc.

Serve with:

  • 1 large handful of chopped fresh basil - or 1-2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 pound cooked diced chicken or cooked shrimp - optional
  • more freshly grated parmesan


  • Start by dicing the onion and mincing the garlic.
  • Preheat a large skillet (10") over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot but not smoking, add the olive oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the onion and garlic and lower the heat to medium. Cook until softened and lightly golden but not browned, 3-5 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  • When the onions are softened, add the white wine to the pan to deglaze and simmer briefly for 1 minute. Add the diced tomatoes and tomato paste to the pan and use a wooden spoon to lightly break up the tomato paste.
  • Add the heavy cream to the pan and continue to break up the tomato paste to completely mix the sauce ingredients together while you bring the sauce to a boil.
  • Once the sauce boils, lower the heat to maintain a low simmer. Cook for 8-10 minutes or until the flavors have combined and the onion has softened.
  • While the creamy tomato sauce simmers, cook the pasta according to the manufacturer's instructions. I like to drain my pasta about 1-2 minutes early and finish it in the sauce.
  • When the pasta is done, drain, but do not rinse, and add the pasta back to the pot. Pour the finished tomato sauce over the top and simmer while you toss the pasta with the sauce.
  • Add the optional chicken or shrimp at this point, and make sure they're cooked and heated through with the pasta. Add the parmesan next and toss to combine.
  • Serve immediately with fresh herbs, if desired, and more freshly grated parmesan.
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The nutrition facts were calculated for the tomato cream sauce + 12 ounces brown rice pasta but without the extra cheese or optional protein.
For dairy-free, add 1 cup of unsweetened coconut cream instead of the heavy cream. Or simmer the sauce, adding a touch of water or chicken broth as necessary, then whisk in some dairy-free cream cheese when the sauce has finished cooking. You can also use 1 cup of my Vegan Alfredo Sauce instead of the heavy cream.
Gluten-free pasta comes in 12-ounce packages, which works well with this amount of sauce and 1 pound of cooked chicken or shrimp tossed together.
This is the perfect amount of sauce if you’re using regular pasta, which comes in 1-pound packages. However, you may need to add a touch more cream to ‘make more sauce’ if you add 1 pound of protein to the pasta.
Category: Dinner
Cuisine: Italian
Keywords: Creamy Tomato Pasta Recipe, Creamy Tomato Pasta with chicken, Creamy Tomato Pasta with shrimp, Pink Sauce Pasta, Tomato Cream Pasta

nutrition facts

Calories: 454kcal | Carbohydrates: 57g | Protein: 10g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 52mg | Sodium: 688mg | Potassium: 377mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 1353IU | Vitamin C: 9mg | Calcium: 137mg | Iron: 1mg
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5 from 1 vote (1 rating without comment)

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