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Easy Cream Cheese Pasta (Instant Pot Pasta Recipe)

Just 5 ingredients and a mere 20 minutes are all it takes to put this amazing cream cheese pasta on your table. Just cook the pasta in the Instant Pot, and then stir in the ingredients for the cream cheese pasta sauce all in the same pot! An easy dinner that’s sure to be your new family favorite…

cream cheese pasta in a matte grey bowl on a wooden cutting board with a silver serving spoon

Cream Cheese Pasta (Super Simple 5-Ingredient Recipe!)

Cozy creamy cheesy comfort food in just 20 minutes?! YES, it definitely can be done — and today I’m here to break it down to show you exactly HOW to get it done…

I’ve been testing this easy cream cheese pasta recipe since before the holidays, and it’s quickly become one of my kids’ most requested meals. To say I’m serving it up at least weekly is not at all an understatement. And I have to say I’m secretly here for it, because it is without a doubt the easiest weeknight dinner EVER!

Just a few reasons why I LOVE this easy pasta recipe:

✔ just FIVE ingredients (count ’em!!)
✔ that are all pantry staples you probably have on hand
✔ extremely budget friendly
✔ the pasta and the easy sauce are made entirely in the Instant Pot
✔ a true one-pot meal with very little cleanup
✔ comfort food that’s ready to eat in 20 minutes!

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pasta with cream cheese sauce ingredients in bowls on a wooden cutting board with a black and white kitchen towel

Penne Pasta With Cream Cheese Sauce Ingredients

My concept for this recipe was to create a virtually effortless pasta with cheese dish that’s prepared with inexpensive pantry staples — one that’s ideal for a busy weeknight and the WHOLE family will adore. That’s a pretty tall order around here, but I’m pretty sure that I totally NAILED IT!

Basic Ingredients For Cheese Sauce Recipe For Pasta:

dry penne pasta — you can actually make this with just about any different pasta, including spaghetti and fettuccine. However, when it comes to pressure cooker pasta, I’ve found that Instant Pot penne pasta consistently turns out perfectly cooked. Plus, the shape and texture holds onto the alfredo-y cream cheese sauce like a dream.

a block of cream cheese — I always toss a couple of bricks of full fat cream cheese into my grocery cart specifically so I can make this pasta with cream cheese recipe. Whether it’s Philadelphia cream cheese or ALDI brand (I’ve tried both), the cheesy sauce is always creamy and satisfying.

shredded Parmesan cheese — you can shred your own, but I just pick up the small tubs of already shredded Parmesan. A little goes a long way, and they last forever in the fridge. Incidentally, they’re also a “good quality yet thrifty buy” at ALDI… (not sponsored, just an ALDI fan girl!!)

butter — real butter, please! You can substitute olive oil in a pinch, but the silky texture and flavor that butter provides this creamy cheese sauce can’t be matched. I use salted butter in pretty much all of my cooking (and baking, too), but you can totally use unsalted, as well.

garlic powder — I wavered between using garlic powder and minced garlic cloves, but I ultimately went with the powder for shelf life. Too often I find my garlic cloves are either shriveled or sprouting when I go to use them. If you want stronger/fresher garlic flavor, substitute either 2 cloves minced or a teaspoon of jarred minced garlic.

That’s it — just 5 simple ingredients… But did you notice what’s NOT on the ingredients list? That’s right, there’s NO MILK! Nope, not even a splash of milk.

cheese pasta with creamy white pasta sauce on penne pasta in a grey bowl with a black and white striped kitchen towel

Why This Pasta And Cream Cheese Pasta Sauce Without Milk Works

The reason we can get away without using whole milk or heavy cream in this delicious pasta and cream cheese sauce is due to the magic of cooking pasta in the Instant Pot. Pressure cooking pasta requires very little water compared to boiling it on the stovetop. In fact, the pasta absorbs most of the water, so you don’t even need to drain it after cooking.

The minimal water that’s left in the bottom of the pot is super concentrated with starch, which makes it the perfect thickener for the creamy white pasta sauce we’re creating. The butter emulsifies with the starchy pasta water, and then the cream cheese smooths out perfectly for an alfredo-like cream cheese sauce for pasta that literally takes no time at all.

PRO TIP: Try cooking your pasta in chicken broth to infuse even more savory flavor into into both the pasta and the homemade alfredo sauce! Just remember to cut back on the kosher salt or omit it altogether if your broth is not a low-sodium variety.

cheese sauce recipe for pasta in the instant pot with a wooden serving spoon scooping it out

How To Make Pasta Sauce With Cream Cheese

First things first: if you’ve never made pasta in your Instant Pot before, I highly recommend scanning my Instant Pot pasta post I recently shared. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be ready to make this cream cheese pasta sauce recipe!

Here are the basics for making pasta sauce with cream cheese:

1| First we’ll prepare the Instant Pot penne pasta. Add 1-lb. of dry penne pasta to the Instant Pot insert, along with 4 cups of water and 2 teaspoons of kosher salt, and pressure cook with high pressure for 5 minutes.

When the pasta is done cooking, perform a quick release to vent the pressure. Important Step: DO NOT drain any of the residual starchy cooking water from the pasta.

2| Next comes the faux alfredo sauce recipe. Immediately stir the butter into the pasta and remaining starchy cooking water to create an emulsion.

Once the butter is melted, stir in the cream cheese and garlic powder. Continue stirring until the cream cheese pasta sauce is completely smooth and lump-free.

3| Stir the shredded Parmesan cheese into the sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve warm!

No, really — that’s IT! That’s all there is to making this ridiculously easy cream cheese pasta. Now do you see why we’ve been eating it so often?!

A Few Quick Tips For Best Results:

  • Having all of the creamy cheese pasta sauce ingredients pre-measured and ready to go when the pasta is done cooking is the key to pulling this together so quickly.
  • Slice both the butter and cream cheese into roughly 1/2-inch pieces to make incorporating them faster and easier.
  • The residual cooking heat should be enough to melt everything for the sauce. But in this case, I still leave the Instant Pot set to Keep Warm while stirring until the consistency of the sauce is velvety and smooth. At that point, I turn the Instant Pot off so that the cream cheese alfredo sauce doesn’t thicken up too much.

pasta with cheese and homemade garlic bread in a large matte grey bowl

Dress Up Basic Cream Cheese Pasta

While this simple pasta dish with its creamy sauce (AKA your new favorite pasta!) is just perfect as is, it’s also an excellent base for a variety of ingredients — which makes it ideal for using up odds and ends in the fridge. Don’t you love a good versatile recipe?

Stay tuned for more Instant Pot pasta recipes, but in the meantime, here are some ideas for add-in ingredients to change up this easy peasy cheese pasta recipe!

Cheese Pasta Add-In Suggestions

  • Add your favorite protein — add baked or grilled chicken for an easy cream cheese chicken pasta. Diced ham, crumbled bacon, and sliced Italian sausage would also be delicious options.
  • Add fresh greens — stir in some spinach for a spinach and cream cheese pasta. Peppery arugula would be another tasty option. Or how about some chopped fresh basil or parsley?
  • Add veggies — Whether fresh or frozen, roasted or sautéed, veggies are a great way to customize this recipe. Toss in some fresh cherry tomatoes or frozen peas! Leftover asparagus or peppers would also pair perfectly. Try adding diced sun-dried tomatoes for a bit of sweetness. SO MANY possibilities!

By the way, if you’re wondering what to serve with this cheesy pasta, my rule of thumb is to keep the sides uncomplicated, as well. A simple green salad is always a great choice and a fantastic way to lighten things up!

And I highly recommend this fast and easy homemade garlic bread made with a 4-ingredient garlic bread spread: butter, garlic, grated Parmesan cheese, and Italian seasoning. There’s just enough time to get it in the oven while the Instant Pot is coming to pressure, and it will be ready to slice when you’re done stirring together the cream cheese pasta sauce.

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instant pot recipes cream cheese pasta sauce being scooper out with a wooden serving spoon

Easy Cream Cheese Pasta (Instant Pot Pasta Recipe)

Yield: 8 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Additional Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

Just 5 ingredients and a mere 20 minutes are all it takes to put this amazing cream cheese pasta on your table. Just cook the pasta in the Instant Pot, and then stir in the ingredients for the cream cheese pasta sauce all in the same pot! An easy dinner that's sure to be your new family favorite...

Ingredients

For the Instant Pot pasta

For the cream cheese pasta sauce

Instructions

  1. Prepare the Instant Pot penne pasta by adding 1-lb. of dry penne pasta and 2 teaspoons of kosher salt to the insert pot. Cover with 4 cups water and pressure cook on high pressure for 5 minutes. Perform a quick release of the pressure. Do not drain any of the residual starchy pasta water left in the pot. (see: Cooking Pasta In Instant Pot for step-by-step instructions)
  2. Leave the Instant Pot set on Keep Warm and immediately add the butter. Stir until melted completely.
  3. Add in the cream cheese and garlic powder and stir until the pasta sauce is smooth.
  4. Stir in the shredded Parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Turn the Instant Pot off by hitting the Cancel button.
  5. Serve warm, garnished with more black pepper or red pepper flakes, as desired.

Notes

Store leftover pasta in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

TO MAKE STOVETOP PASTA SAUCE WITH CREAM CHEESE
You can also make this simple pasta dish on the stovetop! Simply boil the penne pasta in salted water on the stovetop until al dente. Reserve one cup of the cooking water before draining.

Add the drained pasta back to the pot, turn the burner down to low heat, and pick up with the instructions at step 2, adding 1/2 cup of the pasta water when incorporating the butter. Add additional reserved cooking water, as needed, to achieve a creamy pasta sauce.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1/2 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 333Total Fat: 14.4gSaturated Fat: 7.7gCholesterol: 40.6mgSodium: 736.8mgCarbohydrates: 43.3gFiber: 2.0gSugar: 2.1gProtein: 10.1g

Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered estimates. Actual nutritional content will vary with brands used, measuring methods, portion sizes and more.

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If you like this pasta with cream cheese sauce recipe, you might also enjoy these other delicious simple pasta recipes:

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