This cream cheese pasta is one of my absolute favorite things to make. It is the epitome of comfort food in my mind, and it is extremely easy to make. While this recipe is easy, there is one strategy to it that sometimes trips people up. That being the emulsification of the oil and Philadelphia cream cheese with the starchy pasta water.
Since this in my mind is basically an adult mac and cheese I decided to use an adult type of pasta. I chose lumache, which is a shell shaped pasta and named with the Italian word for snails. I find it perfect for thick sauces such as the one used in this cream cheese pasta.
While the sauce is primarily cream cheese based, I did flavor it up with some chopped shallot and garlic. I’m able to buy these great large shallots here in Ukraine which have such a strong flavor, but you can use a small one if that’s easier to find.
To make the sauce, you just saute the shallot and garlic in quite a bit of good olive oil, then when they are getting cooked, add in the cream cheese and whisk together. It doesn’t emulsify well at the time, so I just keep it on low heat whisking until the paste is somewhat mixed. Then, I add a third of a cup of pasta water and everything mixes up into a nice rich cream cheese pasta sauce.
Then all you have to do is drain the pasta. Yes, most of my recipes involve taking the pasta directly from the water to the pan, however as lumache has a snail shell shape it could potentially retain too much pasta water. Since the sauce is mostly pasta water to begin with, it is best to drain the pasta.
Next, just drop the drained pasta into the sauce and give everything a good mix. I turn off the heat since I don’t want the sauce to separate or cook more, but it will still stay hot enough to serve right from the pan.
The Best Cream Cheese Pasta
- 250 grams Pasta I used Lumache, but you can use any short pasta (like elbows)
- 125 grams Philadelphia Cream Cheese
- 1 Shallot chopped
- 5 cloves Garlic chopped
- 1 tsp Red Chili Flakes
- 3 tbsp Olive Oil
- Salt to taste. (Remember, the pasta water is heavily salted, and we are adding 1/3 cup of it into the sauce so you may not need to add salt at all).
- 1 tsp Smoked Paprika optional, garnish at the end.
- This whole recipe takes less than 15 minutes, so once you prepare your garlic and shallot, you can get going. Finely chop your shallot and garlic and separate them.
- Begin boiling a pot of quite salted water. When it is at a rolling boil you can add the pasta. My lumache take 9-10 minutes for al dente, but check your own brand for timing instructions.
- In a saucepan on medium high add all the olive oil. When hot sprinkle in the red chili flakes and the shallot. Cook for a couple minutes, until the shallot is translucent then add the garlic and turn the heat down to medium low.
- After about 30 seconds after adding the garlic, add in all of the cream cheese. It will not mix well at all, so just use a whisk and try your best to get everything somewhat combined. At this point the heat should be on low.
- Take 1/3 cup of the pasta water from the pasta (it is okay if the pasta still needs a few minutes more) and add it to the sauce pan. Use the whisk to mix everything together quickly and you will notice it emulsifying.
- Once the pasta is done, drain and shake it, then add it to the saucepan. Give everything a good stir and plate. Garnish with some fresh herbs, or in my case, a healthy amount of smoked paprika.