Pasta with Cream Sauce

How to make a simple pasta with cream sauce dish. Dinner in less than 30 minutes!


Pasta with Cream Sauce

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I was talking to a friend a few weeks ago who said that he and his wife eat out a lot because they have a hard time knowing where to start in the kitchen. I think this is a pretty common problem and one that I would love to help out with. In fact, that is sort of the point of this entire website.

My friend pointed out that even though my posts are thorough and look easy, some are maybe a bit too difficult for a starter cook. This is a good point. To try to help with this, I made a new category on Macheesmo called Quick and Easy. This is where I will tag how-to posts and simple dishes.

For this post, I thought I would make a classic, simple dish that is delicious and easy: Linguine with a cream sauce.

In my college years, I spent a summer with a friend wondering around Argentina and we ate this a few times a week without fail. It takes minutes to make, is super filling, and you can substitute ingredients like crazy.

Linguine with Cream Sauce

Serves 2
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How to make a simple pasta with cream sauce dish. Dinner in less than 30 minutes!


2 tablespoons minced shallots
3-4 ounces chopped bacon, pancetta, or prosciutto
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces linguine
Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper


1) Add butter to a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in minced shallots and bacon (or other cured meat). Let cook until bacon starts to crisp and shallots are soft, about 6-7 minutes. Season with a pinch of salt.

2) Add a cup of cream to the pan and bring it to a light simmer. Stir and let reduce.

3) Cook pasta according to package in heavily salted water (1-2 tablespoons per gallon of water).

4) When pasta is done, immediately add it to cream sauce and stir to combine. The cream sauce should just hold onto the pasta. If it’s very thick, add a few tablespoons of pasta water to the sauce. If it’s too thin, let it simmer a bit to reduce further.

5) Serve pasta immediately with grated Parmesan cheese.

For this version, I had a shallot sitting around and some prosciutto left over from my chicken saltimbocca. I gave both ingredients a quick chop and added them to a large sautee pan with 2 Tablespoons of butter.

Leftovers. Really good leftovers.
Leftovers. Really good leftovers.

After just a few minutes the onions will start to soften and the prosciutto will start to crisp up a bit.

Keep in mind that there are a ton of things you could add to this cream sauce. These are just two that I thought of. Or you could just do cream… that is good also.

This smells pretty amazing. It's the simple things sometimes.
This smells pretty amazing. It’s the simple things sometimes.

Pour in about a cup of cream and turn your heat down to low. Give it a good stir to combine everything.

A match made in Heaven. Or Italy. Or France.
A match made in Heaven. Or Italy.

N0w let’s talk about the pasta. I like linguine for this recipe because it has wide noodles which hold up well to the cream sauce. You could probably use other pastas, but that is my personal favorite.

I guess I could do an entire post on how to cook pasta, but the keys to correct pasta are:

1) A big pot.
2) Lots of water. At least a gallon for a pound of pasta.
3) A good amount of salt.

I cooked half a pound of linguine and boiled a gallon of water and probably added 1-2 tablespoons of salt. The big pot and lots of water ensures that your pasta doesn’t stick together and that it cooks evenly.

Lots of water. Water is the key.
Lots of water. Water is the key.

Obviously you will want to get your water boiling before you even think about starting the sauce as the sauce doesn’t take that long.

You will know your cream sauce is ready when you can do this. It should take about 4-5 minutes:

Ready to go.
Ready to go.

Grab your favorite pair of tongs and pull your pasta out of the water and drop it in the cream sauce. Don’t worry about the pasta water. That stuff is all flavor.

Give it a good stir to make sure everything is mixed together.

Tongs help here.
Tongs help here.

Serve immediately! This dish is best right away. Put a little, or a lot, of cheese on it and you will have a delicious, simple meal that is easy to clean up.

Simple and delicious.
Simple and delicious.

I used whole wheat linguine in my recipe because it is a bit healthier and you can’t really tell the difference when you coat it with cream and prosciutto flavors.

This meal and a glass of red wine is one of my favorite winter meals.

It's not as heavy as it looks.
It’s not as heavy as it looks.

I have supreme confidence that even if you have never cooked anything but Ramen, you can make this dish. Just make sure to keep an eye on the cream sauce or it will scorch quickly.

Does anyone have any other fun additions they would add to this? Leave a comment!

29 Responses to “Pasta with Cream Sauce” Leave a comment

  1. But where is the cheese?

    You put cheese on top of the pasta, but you put no cheese in the sauce. I cannot process this.

    1. I did this with shallots and pancetta and the flavors that combined in the cream were perfect. NO CHEESE IS NEEDED!

  2. Grapes in pasta? Jean, I am intrigued. Wouldn't have thought of that in a million years, and I have made my share of pasta with cream sauce.

    My favorite additions to the above are a drizzle of truffle oil; or saute some mushrooms with the shallot and prosciutto; or saute some bitter greens (kale, etc.) with the shallot and prosciutto; or saute some asparagus with the…you get the idea.

  3. Grapes! Never would have thought of that. I'll give it a shot though. I do love grapes.

    Thanks for the link Andrew… that is interesting and makes sense. I think I'll keep cooking my pasta the traditional way, but it's good to know that if I ever have a shortage of water I can still produce decent linguine.

    Thanks for the addition suggestions everyone!

  4. Allow me to give some background on Seth’s comment. Seth is a friend I’ve had since middle school.

    On numerous occasions, I’ve seen this man microwave a plate with a quarter pound of cheddar cheese on it to get it melted and then eat it with a spoon.

    This man’s cheese needs are way above the average human’s.

  5. One idea: put sherry into the cream sauce, and use mushrooms instead of ham. The sherry aroma is amazing.

  6. And let me just state, for the record, that I only consumed pure cheese on those occasions when I couldn't coerce Nick into making me some sort of cheese-based sandwich, perhaps with eggs.

    So really, I turned to a pure cheese diet only when this young man coldly rebuffed my attempts to mold him into the culinary impresario he is today. Today being, by the way, his birthday.

  7. Other than the fact that Seth will no doubt die young, I see no problem with his cheese fetish.

    As for this dish, it looks wonderful. Things you could add (not all at once): halved red or green grapes, toasted pine nuts, chopped parsley, tarragon or chopped basil, halved grape tomatos that have sat in sea salt a little while to get juicy; lots of coarse, freshly ground pepper or Aleppo pepper, my new favorite. (available from Penzey’s spices)

  8. Its always good to have some colour. A bit of red, yellow or green capsicum would spice it up a bit. Or some granise such as coriander would flavor it nicely.

  9. and there's my dinner sorted!

    was it your birthday, Nick?

    if so, happy belated birthday!


    does Seth have a food blog?

    i'd like to see pictures of this delightful sounding

    Plate Of Microwaved Cheese recipe.

  10. hahahahaha seth. you are THE MAN.

    i second the projectivist- seth needs a food blog.

    ps- you could do a light version of this by making a quick roux w/ the shallots and butter by added a bit of flour and instead of cream using a half cup of half and half and a half cup of chicken stock. let it bubble and thicken up a bit more than yours and voila- the same sauce, half the calories!

    ugh- i am tired of being on a diet. it makes me use words like "voila" and think of ways to avoid using heavy cream. lame, right. that was a rhetorical question.

    this dish looks amazing nick- and i like that your trying to teach folks a thing or two.

  11. Alas, good people, I do not have a food blog. I used to write reviews for Nick's previous website though; perhaps he'll give me a guest spot to present a cheese and plate-related recipe (wait, I think I just did).

  12. Nick, I googled pasta cream sauce tonight and lo and behold a Macheesmo link popped up! I went with just a shallot and this sauce was perfect over (dare I admit Trader Joe portabello stuffed ravioli). My 6 yr old who has yet to see the brilliance of a cream sauce exclaimed after one bite, “oooh this is delicious…we should have this again!”. Next time I’ll have some fun with different ingredients. Thanks!

    1. Thanks Dina! I’ve been trying to slowly work on my Google-ability. Glad you liked it.. still a simple recipe that I use regularly. Good luck on the tables. ;)

  13. Just to clarify. What type of cream should we use? Heavy cream? Whipping cream? I am new at this. Thanks!!!!

    1. Heya, no problem. Those are basically the same thing, just labeled differently. Just not WHIPPED cream obviously. ;)

      I usually use the stuff labeled heavy cream, but as far as I know its the same as whipping cream.

      1. Thanks so much for the immediate response! Great, I will try this for dinner tomorrow night. :-) Gotcha on whipped cream :-)

      2. Today was a Macheesmo Day!! Not only did I make your Breakfast Sandwiches for my teenage niece. . .but I made this pasta twice today! Once for lunch and then again for an dinner for my Mom. To my credit, I didn’t eat the batch I made for lunch. Friends gobbled it up. I was completely wowed when I finally tasted it this eve. I used bacon, minced garlic sausage and broccoli for the dinner version and just bacon, minced garlic and broccoli for lunch. Thanks much :-)

  14. Made this last night with onions and mushrooms. quick question on the broccoli – would I add raw broccoli or blanch or something before I add to the pan? Thank you for being sensitive to those of us who are new to cooking. I’ll be following closely!

    1. Heya! No problem. If you were going to add broccoli, I would blanch it quickly in salted water (you can use the same water you use for pasta) then just toss it in the pan after the onions and bacon are cooked and toss everything together with the sauce and pasta.

      Good luck!

  15. Amazing! Made this last night, followed the recipe exactly and it’s the best pasta dish I’ve made! You don’t need any cheese in the sauce it’s THAT good!

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