Creamy Tomato Penne Pasta

Rich, creamy and satisfying – this tomato and mascarpone pasta sauce is a meat-free meal that takes just minutes to cook

A white china bowl filled with penne pasta in a creamy tomato and mascarpone sauce

When my sons were very young, pasta with tomato and mascarpone sauce was one of my regular store cupboard dinners. I used to buy one of the little jars of stir-in sauce that you just mix into hot pasta and cook some frozen sweetcorn in with the pasta. It was a great way to get a meal on the table quickly, especially when I had three hungry boys to feed after school.

But although those little jars are quite handy, they also work out quite expensive and as my sons got bigger, one jar wasn’t really enough.

This home-made version of a tomato and mascarpone sauce is nearly as quick and simple as the stir-in jars. You just grate a clove of garlic into some oil, add passata and seasoning, then simmer it all together. Ten minutes later, you’re ready to stir in the rich mascarpone cheese and mix it with your pasta for a creamy, satisfying dinner.

Overhead view of a white china dish filled with penne pasta in a creamy tomato and mascarpone sauce

This makes a delicious meat-free meal and I love its comforting simplicity, just served with some garlic bread or a salad alongside. But if you want to increase the veg content, you could easily cook some frozen sweetcorn in with the pasta or fry up some onions and mushrooms with the garlic before you add the passata.

You could even add some shredded leftover chicken or cook some sausages to accompany it, if meat-free isn’t your thing.

Recipe Variations

I’ve suggested using penne because these long tubes are an ideal vehicle to carry the rich, creamy sauce. But you could easily use other shapes such as fusilli or even a long pasta like spaghetti. Basically, use whatever pasta you enjoy eating and you have in your cupboard.

My recipe specifies mascarpone but regular cream cheese also works – either the sort that’s named after an American city or a supermarket version. You might want to beat the cheese with a wooden spoon to soften it a little before you add it to the sauce, so that it will melt in easier.

Close up of penne pasta covered in a creamy tomato and mascarpone sauce in a white china dish

Using dried oregano makes this a great store cupboard standby. But if you have any fresh basil growing on your windowsill, that also works really well. Leave out the oregano and simply stir in a big handful of roughly chopped basil leaves when you mix the sauce and pasta together.

Creamy Tomato Penne Pasta
Prep Time
5 mins
Cook Time
15 mins
Total Time
20 mins

A rich and creamy tomato pasta sauce that only takes minutes to make

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: Vegetarian
Servings: 4
Author: Sally Akins
  • 360 g penne or other pasta
  • 2 tbsp oil – olive, rapeseed or sunflower
  • 1 clove of garlic (or more to taste)
  • 500 g passata
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 150 g mascarpone or cream cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Fill a pan with boiling salted water and add your penne or other pasta. Stir well and cook according to the packet instructions.

  2. Put the oil into a saucepan. Peel and grate, mince or finely chop the garlic and add it to the saucepan, then place the pan over a medium heat. Heat the oil gently until the garlic loses its raw scent, but don't let it go brown as it will taste bitter.

  3. Pour in the passata and then stir in the oregano, sugar, salt and black pepper. Partially cover the pan with a lid and then cook over a medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  4. Once your pasta is cooked, drain it and return to the pan off the heat.

  5. Take the tomato sauce off the heat and stir in the mascarpone or cream cheese. It may take a little while, but keep stirring until you can't see any little streaks of white in the sauce.

  6. Check the seasoning of the sauce and when you're happy, add the sauce to the pasta and stir together well. Return to the heat for a minute or two just to warm through, then serve.

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