Just 5 ingredients and a mere 20 minutes are all it takes to put this amazing cream cheese pasta on your table… Cook the pasta in the Instant Pot, and then stir in the ingredients for the cream cheese pasta sauce all in the same pot!
Super Simple 5-Ingredient Cream Cheese Pasta
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 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 one of the easiest weeknight dinners EVER!
Just a few reasons why I LOVE this recipe:
✔ just FIVE ingredients (count ’em!!)
✔ that are all pantry staples you probably have on hand
✔ extremely budget friendly
✔ 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!
Penne With Cream Cheese Sauce Ingredients
My concept for this recipe was to create a virtually effortless dish that’s prepared with inexpensive pantry staples — one that the WHOLE family will adore. That’s a pretty tall order around here, but I’m pretty sure that I totally NAILED IT!
LET’S TAKE A LOOK AT THE INGREDIENTS:
dry penne pasta — you can actually make this with just about any type of pasta, including spaghetti. However, when it comes to pressure cooking pasta, 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.
cream cheese — I always toss a couple of bricks of cream cheese into my grocery cart specifically so I can make this pasta. Whether it’s Philadelphia cream cheese or ALDI brand (I’ve tried both), the 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 high-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 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 ingredients… But did you notice what’s NOT on the ingredients list? That’s right, there’s NO milk!
Why This Pasta And Cream Cheese Pasta Sauce With No Milk Works
The reason we can get away with no milk in this 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.
But the minimal water that’s left is super concentrated with starch, which makes it the perfect thickener for the cheesy creamy white pasta sauce we’re creating. The butter emulsifies with it, and then the cream cheese smooths out perfectly for an alfredo-like sauce that literally takes no time at all.
How To Make Cream Cheese Pasta In The Instant Pot
First things first: if you’ve never made Instant Pot pasta before, I highly recommend scanning the tips in this pasta in the Instant Pot article I recently shared. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be ready to make this cream cheese pasta sauce recipe!
Here are the basics:
1| Prepare 1-lb. of dry penne pasta in the Instant Pot, using 1 cup of water and 2 teaspoons of kosher salt. When the pasta is done cooking, perform a quick release to vent the pressure. Do not drain any residual cooking water from the pasta.
2| Immediately stir the butter into the pasta and 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 in the shredded Parmesan cheese. 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 cream cheese pasta sauce ingredients pre-measured and ready to go when the pasta is done 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 until everything is creamy and smooth. At that point, I turn the Instant Pot off.
Add-Ins To Change Up Basic Cream Cheese Pasta
While this simple pasta dish is just perfect as is, it’s also the perfect 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?
A FEW INGREDIENT ADD-IN IDEAS
- Add protein — add baked or grilled chicken for an easy cream cheese chicken pasta. Diced ham, crumbled bacon, and sliced 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 fresh basil?
- Add veggies — Whether fresh or frozen, roasted or sautéed, veggies are a great way to customize this recipe. Toss in some 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 pasta, my rule of thumb is to keep the sides simple, as well. A simple fresh green salad is a fantastic way to lighten things up. And I highly recommend this fast and easy homemade garlic bread! 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.
PIN IT NOW! CLICK HERE TO ADD THIS CREAM CHEESE PASTA RECIPE TO YOUR INSTANT POT RECIPES BOARD ON PINTEREST!
If you like this easy pasta recipe, you might also enjoy these other delicious simple pasta recipes:
- Spaghetti With Garlic and Olive Oil Pasta Sauce
- “Kitchen Sink” Pasta and Meat Sauce
- Foolproof Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe
- Copycat Olive Garden Capellini Pomodoro
Did you make this recipe?
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