Creamy Tomato Pasta Recipe
If you come to our house for dinner, you may occasionally find somewhat elaborate dinner dishes like Meat Cannelloni made completely from scratch, or slow-cooked short rib bolognese, but these days, more often than not, we’re churning out easy, minimal-ingredient dishes like Creamy Tomato Pasta.
However, this is not your average creamy tomato pasta. Or your average tomato sauce.
At first glance, it seems almost too simple, but I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve that make this infinitely more flavorful AND healthy than your run-of-the-mill tomato sauce. And it’s certainly better than anything you’ll find in a jar at the store.
It’s creamy, yes, but you’ll be surprised to know there isn’t a hint of cream intertwined between those perfectly aldente noodles. There’s also a secret ingredient that basically doubles the veggie concentration -without altering the flavor in a significant enough way to allow your kids to immediately detect the hidden health lying beneath.
Creamy Tomato Pasta is simple enough for kiddos to thoroughly enjoy, but complex enough for the adults to feel like they’re not sacrificing flavor for the sake of their kid’s more neutral palates.
Ingredients in Creamy Tomato Pasta Recipe
Onion and garlic. Not much to explain here.
Diced Carrot. In addition to the classic base of onion and garlic in a basic tomato sauce, I’ve added in chopped carrots for an extra dose of health in each bite. Plus, it gives the tomato sauce a subtle sweetness I’m completely obsessed with. I do the same thing in my Creamy Tomato Soup recipe, and I’m convinced it’s what makes it better than any other tomato soup recipe out there.
White wine. I love the acidity and flavor wine brings to sauces. It adds another layer of flavor, which is important in dishes that rely heavily on simplicity. Typically, I like to add red wine to a red tomato sauce, but since this sauce is a lighter, creamier take on a traditional tomato sauce, I like to use white wine. Any dry white wine good enough to sip by the glass will work.
Canned Whole Tomatoes. San Marzano or Muir Glen are my favorite brands.
Spices: Garlic powder, salt, sugar, and just a touch of Italian seasoning.
Parmesan cheese rind. This is a crucial ingredient in the the sauce. A parmesan cheese rind is a great secret flavor weapon to have in your arsenal, especially when it comes to healthy cooking. It adds an element of savoriness, and I completely adore the nutty flavor it infuses into sauces and soups when you let it simmer for an extended period of time. Any remnants of parmesan cheese slowly melt into the sauce, but it’s not like you’re dumping in a ton of cheese.
Greek yogurt. What makes this go from a simple tomato sauce to a healthy tomato sauce. When I’m trying to keep calories and fat down, I love to stir in a little bit of plain Greek yogurt. It still gives off that silky-smooth texture I love about cream, but also adds a touch of tanginess.
Pasta water. The starchy cooking liquid the pasta cooks in, is your best friend. Add a little bit to dry pasta and watch it transform into the most perfect creamy sauce.
How to make this Creamy Tomato Pasta Recipe Sweat the onion, garlic and carrots in a little bit of olive oil until softened. Season with salt and pepper. Add in white wine, and simmer until it’s reduced by about half. Pour in tomatoes, sugar, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, salt, and parmesan cheese rind. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes. Halfway through, remove the lid and use a wooden spoon to break the tomatoes up. Transfer the sauce to a blender (don’t forget to remove the parmesan cheese rind!), and blend until smooth. You can also use a hand immersion blender. Add the sauce back to the pan, season to taste with salt and pepper, and continue to simmer. While the sauce continues to simmer, cook the pasta until just under aldente. Transfer the pasta to the sauce with a sieve, and make sure to keep the pasta water. Toss the pasta with the sauce, greek yogurt, and half a cup of pasta water. Once everything is mixed together, if needed, add remaining 1/4 cup of pasta water. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with Italian seasoning and parmesan cheese if desired. Where can I buy parmesan cheese rind?
I always have a hunk of parmesan cheese in the fridge, so when I’m done with it, I transfer to a freezer ziplock bag and store in the fridge until I need it. If you’re not like me and don’t keep fresh parmesan blocks on hand, you can now buy them at the grocery store. My local grocery store sells just the rind, as well as Whole Foods. A local cheese shop may also have rinds to sell.
Do I have to blend the sauce?
If you like a chunkier sauce, then by all means, leave it. It won’t alter the taste at all. Just make sure to break up the tomatoes as much as possible with a wooden spoon.
Can I make Creamy Tomato Paste ahead of time?
Yes! You can make the sauce the day before, and cook the pasta the day before. Store separately and then heat together in a large skillet. Again, make sure to cook the pasta UNDER aldente, because it will continue to cook. You can also make it from start to finish, cool and store in an airtight container.
Variations on Creamy Tomato Pasta Add in baby spinach while tossing the hot pasta with the sauce. Roast a head of garlic ahead of time and throw it in the blender when you puree the sauce. Use goat cheese instead of Greek yogurt for an even tangier taste. Add in cooked turkey Italian sausage for extra protein.
Substitutions and Tips and Tricks for Recipe Success If you’re not worried about the health of the dish, feel free to swap half and half or heavy cream for the Greek yogurt. Use any kind of pasta you like. This sauce goes with everything! I know I’ve said this MANY times, but be sure to cook your pasta under aldente! The pasta will continue to cook while you toss the sauce. Season every step of the way. Simple cooking is all about seasoning. Season the onion, garlic, and carrots. Season when you add the tomatoes. And again at each step of the way. This is the number one way you build flavor.
If you love this Creamy Tomato Pasta Recipe, you’re sure to also love this Easy Garlicky Shrimp Pasta. It’s packed with sweet shrimp, plenty of garlic, and easy easy butter sauce – bonus? It’s only five ingredients. This One Pot Turkey Mexican pasta is also one of our favorite quick and easy pasta dishes. Perfect for busy weeknights. If you need something classic, check out our One Pot Spaghetti and Meatballs that’s not only super easy to make, but healthy too!
Creamy Tomato Pasta Recipe
This Creamy Tomato Pasta Recipe is something we make at least a few times a month because it's easy to throw together and the whole family loves it! Bonus? It's packed with pureed carrots and Greek yogurt instead of cream, so it's also secretly healthy. Win win.
2 tsp olive oil 1/2 cup diced onion 1 cup diced carrot 1 large garlic clove, minced 1/4 cup white wine 28 oz peeled whole tomatoes (Preferably San Marzano or Muir Glen) 2 tsp sugar 1 tsp garlic powder 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning, plus more for garnish 1/2 tsp kosher salt 1 parmesan cheese rind 3/4 lb penne, penne rigate, rigatoni, or ziti 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt 3/4 cup pasta water parmesan cheese for garnish (optional)
Bring a large stock pot of water to a rolling boil. Season liberally with salt, it should taste like sea water.
Heat a large skillet to a medium heat. Add olive oil, onion, carrot, and garlic. Stir with a wooden spoon. Season with a little bit of salt and pepper. Sweat the vegetables until they start to soften, about 3-4 minutes.
Add white wine, simmer until reduced by half. Add tomatoes, sugar, garlic powder, italian seasoning, 1/2 tsp salt, and the parmesan cheese rind. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the lid from the pan and use a wooden spoon to break up the tomatoes. Stir and cover and again. Simmer another 10 minutes.
Remove the parmesan cheese rins and then carefully transfer the sauce to a blender. Blend until smooth. You can also use a hand immersion blender, but since it's shallow it may splatter.
Pour the sauce back into the pan and season to taste with salt and pepper. Continue to simmer. Add pasta to the boiling water. Cook until just under aldente.
Use a hand-held strainer to transfer the pasta to the sauce. Reserve the starchy cooking liquid. Reduce the heat on the sauce down to low, and add in Greek yogurt. Toss the pasta, sauce, and Greek yogurt together. Add in 1/2 cup of starchy cooking liquid, and stir again. If needed, add in remaining 1/4 cup of starchy pasta water. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Garnish with Italian seasoning and parmesan cheese if desired.
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