Rich and velvety white pasta sauce made of cream cheese, milk, and parmesan cheese. Sounds decadent? Yes, it actually is.
This is not your everyday pasta sauce. Just by looking at the ingredients, you probably already have an idea of how sinful and indulgent this recipe is.
Why cream cheese?
Well, using cream cheese for pasta sauce was in fact purely spontaneous.
One fateful day, I wanted to make pasta with white sauce. I didn’t have fresh cream at the time. All I had was a block of leftover cream cheese. It has a word cream in it so I figured, it could be a good substitute for fresh cream. Sounds logical enough. Right?
Just kidding. I know it’s made of curdled cream, of course, it makes a perfect substitute.
To make the white sauce flavorful, we are bringing in the staples:
- toasted garlic
- cream cheese
- whole milk
- parmesan cheese
Cream cheese is a mild-tasting cheese with a hint of tanginess. That’s why it is so versatile. It can take on almost any flavors you combine it with.
The list above is my staples when making a white sauce for pasta. The garlic and parmesan cheese, in my opinion, should never be omitted in any white pasta sauce recipe. Both bring good and complex flavors to the sauce.
Love cheese? Check out these recipes
Addition of vegetables and meat or protein is optional but highly recommended. It not only brings color but also adds an extra touch of flavor and texture to the sauce.
In this recipe, I added chicken, baby asparagus and bunashimeji mushrooms. I particularly love the nutty flavor and the crunchy texture of the mushroom. Fortunately, it is always available in our local supermarket. Please see notes in the recipe card for other meat and vegetable options.
Fish sauce in white sauce. Really? Yes! Although listed as optional the “umaminess” it brings to the chicken is just undeniable. Try it, to believe it.
Watch the video on how to make Cream Cheese Pasta Sauce
Cream Cheese Pasta Sauce
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons garlic minced
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 cup cream cheese
- 1/2 cup chicken broth or pasta water
- 3/4 cup fresh parmesan cheese grated and divided
- pinch ground black pepper
- 250 grams skinless chicken breasts sliced into thin pieces
- 2 teaspoons cooking oil
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce optional
- mushrooms i used two packs of bunashimeji mushrooms
- baby asparagus tough parts removed (see notes for variations)
- 8 ounces / 220g pasta cooked al dente
- parsley or green onions for garnish chopped
- Heat oil in a pan. Add chicken. Stir-fry for 5 to 7 minutes until no longer pink. Season with fish sauce. Stir for 1 minute until fragrant. Transfer to a plate. Set aside.
- Add butter to warm pan. Stir in minced garlic. Cook for 1 minute over medium heat until lightly brown. Immediately add asparagus and mushrooms or choice of vegetables (see notes). Continue stirring until vegetables are half-cooked.
- Pour in the milk, pasta water or chicken broth. Once the liquid starts simmering, add the cream cheese. Lightly stir until the cheese melts through the sauce.
- Add the cooked chicken and half of the grated parmesan cheese. Gently stir. Simmer for 1 minute. Lower the heat then season with ground pepper. If sauce becomes too thick, just add more pasta water 1/4 cup at a time until desired consistency is achieved.
- Add the cooked pasta. Gently toss until well coated. Turn off the heat.
- Transfer to a serving plate. Sprinkle remaining parmesan cheese and parsley or green onions. Serve and enjoy!
- Other protein options are bacon and shrimp. Bacon will make it extra flavorful and extra decadent. If you know what I mean.
- If using bacon, fry it on the same pan but remove or wipe out the grease after. Unless you love the 'bacony-greasy' flavor then, by all means, leave it.
- If using shrimp, use the frozen pack for convenience. Submerge it in water for 10 minutes to quickly defrost. Drain well before stir-frying. Cook it for 1 to 2 minutes then remove from pan. Add it back to the sauce just before the pasta.
- Other vegetable variations: broccoli, green peas, carrots, corn, white and brown button mushrooms, portobello mushroom, and yellow bell pepper. All are mild-tasting vegetables that won't overpower the buttery flavor of the sauce.
- Freshly grated parmesan is always recommended as it melts easily in the sauce. If using the jarred type, use the finely grated one for a smoother sauce.
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