Quick Tuscan Pasta Sauce

Raise your hand if being able to make dinner in 20 minutes fills your heart with joy? Now that the weather is {finally} warming up and we are spending more time outside remembering what fresh air feels like, dinner prep is being cut to a minimum. I love my kids. I want to serve them dinner. But generally, I refuse to be stuck inside slaving over dinner while they are outside romping freely. Granted, I’m usually planted on the porch steps holding the little one and not even coming close to romping, but I still don’t want to be inside cooking, especially since in my neck of the woods, a raging blizzard of snow and ice could still appear any minute and we have to take advantage of the warmth (i.e. above 35 degrees). Enter the season of quick meals.

Considering the fact that my children weep-in-a-good-way when I make our go-to Creamy Garlic Alfredo Sauce, I decided it was high time to change it up with a little variation or two. Tuscan pasta sauce it is! Which is basically a fancy and probably non-authentic way to say basil and sun-dried tomatoes have been thrown in.

Quick Tuscan Pasta Sauce

This is delicious as is, but toss a few chopped, fresh tomatoes on top and a bit of fresh basil and it is pure pasta heaven. If you are looking for more of a complete meal, we’ve added cooked chicken and it is as good or better than any sun-dried tomato sauce dish I’ve ordered at a restaurant. Admittedly that’s been a while since I live in the land-of-no-restaurants (unless you consider Subway and Pizza Ranch fine dining), but basically what I’m saying is, this pasta sauce is really delicious. And the fact that it is made from scratch and comes together in 20-minutes is like huge bonus of the year.

Quick Tuscan Pasta Sauce

One Year Ago: Brown Sugar Crackle Cookies
Two Years Ago: Cheesy Au Gratin Potatoes
Three Years Ago: Honey Lime Fruit Salad

Creamy Tuscan Pasta Sauce

Yield: Serves 4-6

Creamy Tuscan Pasta Sauce

This would be delicious with grilled or cooked chicken thrown into the mix. Also, you can use lowfat cream cheese and lowfat milk; the sauce is more creamy and smooth the higher fat content you go but I usually stick with 1% milk and less fat cream cheese and we love it. If you have fresh basil, scrap the dried basil and add in about 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil at the end of cooking (or do a combination of dried and fresh for maximum basil flavor). To maximize how quickly this meal comes together, start the noodles cooking at the same time you start the sauce.


  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced or pressed through a garlic press
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried basil
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened and cut into 8 pieces
  • 8-ounce jar sun-dried tomatoes, rinsed, drained and chopped
  • 2 cups milk
  • 6 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about 2 cups)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, more to taste, if needed
  • Diced fresh tomatoes, fresh basil for topping (optional)


  1. In a medium pot or skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly, taking care not to let the garlic burn. Stir in the dried basil. Add the cream cheese, stirring with a whisk until the mixture is smooth. It will look curdled at first, but with constant whisking for 2-3 minutes, it should come together to form a smooth, creamy paste. Stir in the sun-dried tomatoes.
  2. Over medium heat, add the milk gradually, about 1/4 cup at a time, whisking quickly and constantly until each addition is incorporated fully into the sauce. Stir in the Parmesan cheese, pepper and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring until the cheese is melted and the sauce is the desired consistency, 5-10 minutes. Serve over hot, cooked noodles.

Recipe Source: from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

94 Responses to Creamy Tuscan Pasta Sauce {Quick 20-Minute Dinner}

  1. Makayla says:

    I am a pasta sauce snob and I have to say this is hands down the best I have ever had! This is my go to for a creamy, rich, and flavorful sauce! Thank you for sharing this recipe. It is absolutely divine!

  2. Anna says:

    Very easy and quick pasta sauce. I used 3 frozen-fresh basil cubes (from Trader Joe’s, and many supermarkets) and added them with the garlic and butter. It made the sauce amazing with so much more flavor.

  3. […] Mel’s Kitchen Cafe – Mel is as down to earth as they come, and every single one of her recipes is a home run. […]

  4. Raustin says:

    This recipe is the next best thing to Olive Garden….thank you so much for sharing this…this was my first ever pasta dish and you made it so simple even my 15 year old daughter wants to make it for dinner next time…I added garlic sausage and grilled chicken and it was the best….

  5. Melissa says:

    This looks awesome! Love Mel’s recipes and I know my family will enjoy!

  6. SSC says:

    Oh my!!! I just made this for my lunch this week. I added sautéed onions and bell peppers because I love them in as many dishes as possible. I had to do a taste test and this is absolutely delicious. Will definitely make again!

  7. Hannah says:

    I was wanting some creamy pasta last night, so we tried this recipe. As I was making it I realized, “Oh man. My kids are really going to resist this one because of the chunks of sundried tomatoes all throughout.” So, when it was all done, I dumped it into the blender for a minute. It made the sauce an orange color and it was nice and smooth and creamy. My kids scarfed it down and one of my boys even said, “This is like Mac n cheese, but better.” What?! That’s like the ultimate culinary compliment around here. 🙂 Thanks for all the yumminess!

  8. haifa says:

    Hi , I would like So much to try this sauce but I would like to know what type of cream cheese you are using
    Please be specific about the brand name and give me a couple of alternatives

  9. Tara says:

    I don’t know where my first comment went but it never posted! It was supposed to go before the PS. This was my comment:

    Today was one of those days I just did NOT feel like cooking and left dinner prep until the last minute. Then at 6 pm when I was slowly getting my butt in gear and trying to appease a hungr, tired, crying baby who would have no one but mommy, my daughter asked me what time her kids club was. Trigger panic! Ahhhhhhhh! I forgot and we have to leave here in 35 minutes! Well guess what I made, and it was yum to boot! Thank you for a dinner saver so I didn’t have to turn to boxed Mac and Cheese or scrambled eggs! (and I even prepared it one-handed with a baby on my hip!)

    A keeper for sure! And the leftovers are going to work tomorrow with my hubby who was all smiles and approval when he asked what I’d be doing with it!

  10. Tara says:

    PS: I had no sun-dried tomatoes so I just measured 8oz of diced canned tomatoes and it was still delish! And I used light cream cheese and low-fat milk. I’m sure with full fat it would be even more delectable!

  11. Tara says:

    Today was one of those days I just did NOT feel like cooking and left dinner prep until the last minute. Then at 6 pm when I was slowly getting my butt in gear and trying to appease a hungr, tired, crying baby who would have no one but mommy, my daughter asked me what time her kids club was. Trigger panic! Ahhhhhhhh! I forgot and we have to leave here in 35 minutes! Well guess what I made, and it was yum to boot! Thank you for a dinner saver so I didn’t have to turn to boxed Mac and Cheese or scrambled eggs! (and I even prepared it one-handed with a baby on my hip!)

    A keeper for sure! And the leftovers are going to work tomorrow with my hubby who was all smiles and approval when he asked what I’d be doing with it!

  12. Shannon says:

    I’ve wanted to make this for so long and the stars aligned tonight (we had all the ingredients including fresh basil, yum!). If my husband licking his plate doesn’t indicate that we can’t get enough of the creamy garlicky sauce, then I don’t know what will! It was a hit. I loved the sun dried tomatoes, but apparently for kids they are a little of an acquired taste. They’ll acquire it soon if I have anything to do with it!

  13. Jenni says:

    After stalking your recipes for months, & experiencing unbeatable tastebud benefits, I decided it was due time to thank you. In my household you are referred to as “domestic goddess,” because we seriously are obsessed with every recipe of yours we’ve tried. Every time I whip up something which is a hit, my husband assumes that it is from your site (and is right 95% of the time.) THANK YOU THANK YOU for providing easy to follow instructions which predictably incredible results. I contribute my graduation from Kraft macaroni dinners entirely to you. 🙂

  14. Suzanne says:

    I made this last night and it is now one of my new favorite recipes from Mel. It reminds me a lot of the sauce on Olive Garden’s “Ravioli di Portabello”. Absolutely DELISH! I’m gonna have to try it on some kind of pasta with mushrooms now. Thanks for a great, easy recipe, Mel!

  15. Tracey says:

    I love to sauce. I actually used it as a sauce on turkey sandwiches. it was great.

  16. Christa says:

    disregard my previous comment. I just re-read and saw your notation about cream cheese.

  17. Christa says:

    have you ever used reduced fat cream cheese for this recipe?

  18. Laurie says:

    We made this for dinner last night and it met with rave reviews! Thanks! We always know that a recipe from Mel will be delicious!

  19. hanna says:

    If it is possible, would you consider maybe taking pictures of some of the more confusing ingredients, for you international readers? I am from sweden, and we are always trying to decipher what the swedish equivalent of your ingredients are. It would be so much easier with pictures and I would be ever grateful!! 🙂
    Also, to make things clear: cream cheese is like philadelphia cheese right? What exactly does it mean to “soften it and cut into 8 pieces”? Our philadelphia is already very soft and comes in very small packages for putting on crackers and bread. Is your philadelphia kind of hard, like butter or ice cream?

    • Mel says:

      Hi Hanna – our cream cheese is soft and can be spread on a bagel or toast but I like to soften it even more to add to this recipe so it melts nicely in the sauce without clumping up.

  20. Tara says:

    This was amazing – totally saved my original meal plan of plain old boring burritos. It was quick, easy, I added some grilled chicken – BAM!!! – great great recipe!! 3 out of 4 kiddos loved it, hubby and I LOVED it…this one is going in the recipe box.

  21. Frances says:

    We LOVE this sauce at our house. I’m about to have a third baby and am looking for meals I can freeze and/or crock pot. I saw in an earlier comment that you don’t think it will freeze well but do you think this would be adaptable to a crock pot? If so, do you have any suggestions on how to do that?

    • Mel says:

      I actually made the other version of this (the plain garlic alfredo) the other day and kept it warm in the crockpot and it was kind of a disaster – it separated and kind of curdled so I don’t think the slow cooker is your friend on this particular recipe, darn it.

  22. Kate says:

    this is so so yummy! Question: can I freeze the left overs? Anyone ever try that?

  23. Andrea says:

    Made this just last night and it’s outstanding! Definitely a keeper.

    Quick question: do you think pulsing the sundried tomatoes in a food processor would be a good way to chop them up quickly, or will they end up a mash? Thanks!

  24. Della says:

    This recipe is great! I’ve never cooked with sundried tomatos before so I wasn’t sure if I would like it (not a fan of tomatos unless chopped very small) but it was really good. I will have to look for more ways to try using sundried tomatos in the future.

    Oh and while I was looking for different versions of cream sauces, I found this recipe almost word for word on another site cdkitchen.com. They didn’t reference where it came from and I wasn’t sure if it would bother you being used without acknowledgement.

  25. anita says:

    Loved this! I threw in baby spinach at the end to get veggies into our dinner. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe!

  26. Lauren says:

    Have you ever added in mushrooms to the sauce? I purchased some thinking it may be a nice add but wasn’t sure how it would work.


  27. Mimi says:

    Can the recipe be cut in half for 2 ppl or will it not come out as good?

  28. Colleen says:

    This is one of my all-time favorite recipes. I can’t even think about it without my mouth starting to water. SO DELICIOUS!

  29. Julie says:

    This was absolutely fabulous! Topped with grilled chicken, my whole family enjoyed it and asked for seconds. Another winning recipe! Thanks!!

  30. Ashlee says:

    Mel!! I doubled this for my hubby’s birthday dinner, and it was delicious, but today I made your fast pizza dough, and used this as a sauce on grilled pizzas. No words. It’s amazing. I wasn’t lucky enough to win the pizza oven for our new house, but grilling works!!

  31. Kelsey says:

    This sauce is so beautiful! Just made it (subbed cream for half the milk and used roasted bell peppers and peas instead of sundried tomatoes, but I do want to try the tomatoes in the future), and I didn’t have the usual problem of the sauce getting clumpy because of your good directions. It’s so smooth and silky and just delicious! Will definitely make again.

  32. Haley says:

    Delicious. Loved it!

  33. Amanda Z says:

    This was so good! I used 2% milk and low fat cream cheese and it was still very creamy and delicious. I added Italian sausage right before serving the sauce and it was a great addition, it was so yummy! Thanks for a great pasta sauce!

  34. Heather B. says:

    I have dried Sundried tomatoes. Can I substitute them? How would you re-hydrate them?

    • Mel says:

      Heather – usually you can rehydrate the dried tomatoes in hot water (submerge them in hot water for 10-15 minutes). Drain and then chop – then use them in the recipe. Good luck!

  35. Jen K says:

    Absolutely delicious! Next time I would add sauté chicken pieces & no salt because I think the cheese adds enough salt. Taste the dish before you put it in. Also, I added steamed broccoli to the menu & it was so good mixed in with the pasta.

  36. Jami says:

    Huge hit with my family! In fact, every huge hit with my family comes from your website. You are my go-to source when I’m menu planning.
    Made this exactly according to the recipe, just threw in some leftover grilled chicken and two cups of chopped spinach at the end (always trying to sneak in more veggies). I ate mine over sauteed shredded zucchini. Kids and hubby had it with pasta/zucchini combo. And we should have enough for some leftovers later in the week. Thanks for another fabulous recipe!

  37. Andrea says:

    I have made this twice now and my family loves it! Mine has turned out really, really thick both times. I followed the recipe exactly except for using Neufchatel cheese. I did add grilled chicken at the end as well. I watched the cooking time very closely to make sure that wasn’t the problem with the thickness. It was still delicious, but in your picture it looks much thinner, which I would prefer. What would you suggest to thin it? Less parmesan? More milk?

  38. […] Recipe:  Creamy Tuscan Pasta Sauce by Mel’s Kitchen […]

  39. Julie Frey says:

    To Shannon and Mel- I made the heavy cream substitution tonight! Worked fine! I unfortunately did not have sun dried tomatoes (so bummed!) but I did have canned roasted tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano- they worked fine too-only used a cup of the heavy cream because of juice in canned roasted tomatoes. This sauce came out delicious!!! Love the flavor, wished I had had the sun dried tomatoes, will try it again with those next time! I’m pin’n this one!

  40. I thought I had tried every pasta sauce known to man…but this one is new to me and I am so into it!! Def on my list of “must try!”

  41. Liz R says:

    I just made this and was literally smacking myself it was so delish! My kids devoured it as did hubby and it was given 10 stars by the WHOLE family!!! Thank you!!!

  42. Sarah says:

    Made this dish and it was a success. I added mushroom and broccoli with it and all I can say is YUMMY TO MY TUMMY! Thank you Mel for this A——MAZING recipe. It sure is a keeper in this mama’s kitchen 🙂

  43. amanda says:

    I made this last night. It is one of the most delicious things I have ever put in my mouth. The cream cheese makes it amazing. I added some bacon bits to my sauce and used some petite diced tomatoes instead of sun dried.
    Thank you for this recipe, it is fantastic.

  44. Tanvi says:

    How many ounces of uncooked pasta is this sauce recipe for?

  45. Jeanne says:

    I just made this, and absolutely love it…considering just eating the sauce like soup…yeah, that yummy!

  46. Shannon says:

    I didn’t use heavy cream and just used the cream cheese. I am glad I didn’t. It’s was so good, and my dad loved it. Fabulous recipe.

  47. Aggie says:

    I’ve already had dinner – and an ice cream come – now I want a plate of this pasta!! Looks so delicious!

  48. Shannon says:

    I have a question. Instead of the cream cheese, can I sub heavy cream for the cream cheese?

    • Mel says:

      Shannon – I haven’t made that substitution and so I can’t attest for the results. It will likely change the consistency of the sauce (make it much thinner) so you’ll have to experiment and see. I highly recommend using the cream cheese if you can.

  49. Stacy says:

    This was fantastic! I had hubby grill some chicken to put on top and it was so yummy!

  50. Jennifer D. says:

    Loved this! Another easy, delicious dinner thanks to you! I added some grilled chicken for my “there has to be meat for it to be a meal” husband. Divine! I’m eating the leftovers right now as a matter of fact! You rock as always!

  51. Holly says:

    Winner! And ready to go so very quickly! Thanks Mel – this is a fabulous addition to my weeknight dinners.

  52. Rachey says:

    Man, I love me some Pizza Ranch though. Where I moved, we are lacking. But this recipe looks awesome and is definitely going into the queue.

  53. Amy says:

    YUM. I have been scouring your site for a couple of days and made this (my first Mel recipe) last night. Best pasta sauce I’ve ever made, hands down! I can’t wait to try many more of your recipes!

  54. Schwidawg says:

    This looks good and easy to make. My only concern is the cream cheese. The cream cheese has to take this meal off the healthy chart big time!!

  55. Shauntel says:

    We loved this. I used just a small bag of sun dried tomatoes, and it still worked wonderfully. We served it over regular pasta and GF pasta (for me). Delicious!

  56. Tracy says:

    Made this last night. Tossed in some grilled chicken and it was so yummy. Maybe I haven’t eaten out in a while but I thought this sauce was better than anything I have eaten in a restaurant in quite some time! Husband and BIL agreed! Fast and easy to whip up. My kids didn’t make a peep while eating and asked for seconds.

  57. Beth says:

    Keeper! I think I like this even more than the pure Alfredo version, and I make that a lot. This was delicious and came together so quickly. I think it would be a nice side for a more-than-20-minute-dinner night with your lemon garlic chicken and some green beans. I’ll just have to make sure to always have a jar of sun-dried tomatoes on hand now . . .

  58. Evelyn says:

    Made this last night and it was wonderful! I’ve never used sun dried tomatoes before, and because my family won’t eat tomatoes if they can see them (sigh), I used my P.C. chopper to chop them up really small…worked like a charm!

  59. AshlEe says:

    Mel! I love you! I made this today and everyone loved it! My hubby said he’ll take this over his favorite (time-consuming) steak Gorgonzola pasta any time. Thanks!!

  60. Lisa says:

    Delicious! I have some of the sauce left over which is a huge plus. My husband and 1 year old also loved this.

  61. wendy says:

    Thanks for this recipe! I made it today and added braised, shredded short ribs. So tastey!!!!!!

  62. Rachael says:

    Made this tonight and we have no leftovers!!! I loved that I truly was in and done in about 20 minutes and it was so tasty. We used some dried tomatoes I have kept in the freezer. Perfect. All the kids gave a thumbs up to making it again. I am not a fan of alfredo sauces in general but this one is a BIG exception. Thanks so much!

  63. Danielle says:

    Yup! made it last night and it went straight to my recipes we liked board on pinterest. Thanks! I love quick, easy, and yummy recipes like this!

  64. Alison says:

    Thanks! Just have to say you blog looks great but I like when you can see the full version of the newest recipe instead of having to click to read more.

  65. Mel, this looks so mouthwatering! Funny you posted this. I added cream cheese to my usual pasta sauce recipe recently, and it took it to a WHOLE other level! So amazing. Thanks for sharing!

  66. Darcy says:

    I cry when I think about making your creamy alfredo sauce, it is so easy and delish! I think I’ll give this one a shot too!

  67. Danielle says:

    I think I must make this tonight! Thank you!

  68. Amanda says:

    You always come through. Just this morning I was thinking how I need to expand my pasta sauce repertoire! Thanks!

  69. Thesha says:

    This looks amazing! I can’t wait to try it.

  70. Rebecca Hale says:

    This looks yummy and very easy. We’ll probably serve it over cavatappi. (Not like it matters to you, Mel, but my husband shudders every time he hears the word ‘noodles’ in connection with a pasta dish. He says “The Chinese have noodles, the Italians have pasta.”)

    Christine, if you have a Costco or similar near you it’s a great place to buy Parmigiano Reggiano (super authentic, out of this world taste, Parmesan cheese) in wedges. I usually grate the whole thing at once, then put the cheese in a zip bag in the freezer and take out what I need.

  71. Clarissa Meegan says:

    That picture, that description….sold! Thanks again!

  72. Leslie says:

    This looks so easy and delicious! My husband isn’t a fan of sun dried tomatoes. Think it would have enough flavor without them? Would you substitute with anything else? Love the updated website!!!

    • Mel says:

      Hi Leslie – you could leave them out but it would be more like the classic creamy alfredo sauce on my blog (which is still delicious).

  73. Teresa R. says:

    Love quick meals, especially when the look as delicious as this one!

  74. Christine says:

    This sounds so yummy! I’d love to try to make it tonight. I do have one question, on the Parmesan cheese. When you say grated, is that the kind that is in the green container by Kraft?

  75. Stefani says:

    Story of my life. Northern Vermont winters can be long and brutal. We are just starting to see buds on the trees. Yay for spring!

  76. Your 20 minutes dinners always save me! And they’re always delicious!

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