Easy Creamy Pasta Bake recipe with a creamy white sauce that goes with anything! A comforting dish with loads of flavor options included!
Creamy baked pasta dishes like Baked Chicken Spaghetti and Chicken Bacon Pasta Bake are family-friendly casseroles that make weeknight Dinners a breeze. This easy cheesy Pasta Dish is sure to be a new family favorite!
Table of contents
Sabrina’s Creamy Pasta Bake Recipe
This Creamy Pasta Bake is so simple with just a block of cream cheese, a head of garlic, olive oil, pasta, Parmesan cheese and a pinch of salt and pepper. The creamy sauce ingredients bake in the oven while your pasta cooks on the stove top then everything comes together for comforting dinner that will be a hit for the entire family.
One of the best things about this recipe is that the garlicky, creamy white sauce in this pasta bake tastes great with practically anything! It is super easy to change up the flavor with an extra seasoning or two, it can be the base for a loaded pasta bowl, and you can easily swap in substitutions. We’ve included lots of ideas in this post to add extra flavor and other ways to make this creamy cheesy dinner even more amazing.
- Pasta: This recipe uses 16 ounces ziti pasta, or one standard box of pasta, to make a full hearty pan of baked pasta. Make sure to save a cup of pasta water to help make the sauce smooth!
- Olive Oil: The decadent creamy sauce uses ½ cup olive oil. The olive oil not only adds a rich flavor but it keeps the garlic from burning and helps bind the cream cheese into a smooth sauce.
- Garlic: A full 1 head of garlic adds loads of flavor to the rich and creamy sauce! It might seem like a lot of garlic at first but the pungent sharp flavor actually mellows out when you roast it in oil. You end up with a creamier, nuttier garlic taste that has a slight earthy sweetness.
- Cream Cheese: The base of sauce is 8 ounces of cream cheese, or one full block of cream cheese. The rich and tangy soft cheese is perfect because it will soften down enough to stir into a smooth sauce without melting too much or burning.
- Parmesan Cheese: The 1 cup of Parmesan cheese is added at the end for even more cheesy goodness and a delicious salty, nutty flavor. Use fresh shredded cheese for the best flavor and so it melts better into the sauce.
Kitchen Tools & Equipment
- Baking Dish: For this baked pasta dish, you’ll want a large 9×13 baking dish or oven-safe casserole dish that can be at high heat. Make sure it is a couple inches deep so that you can easily coat the pasta with cheese sauce without it spilling over the sides.
- Kitchen Pantry: Your kitchen pantry is the perfect place to go shopping for ingredients to add extra flavor to this deliciously simple Creamy Pasta Bake. Random items like canned beans, canned tuna, pesto sauce, Italian seasoning blends, mixed nuts, chips, and more, can all add loads of flavor without a special trip to the store.
How to Make
Time needed: 40 minutes.
- Prep for Cooking
Preheat your oven. Pour the oil in a 9×13 oven-safe casserole dish. Cut the top of the garlic head, just about a centimeter, to expose the garlic cloves. Begin heating a pot of salted water to a boil.
- Bake the Garlic and Cheese
Place the head of garlic cut side down in the prepared baking dish. Add the block of cream cheese to the oil and turn to coat. Season with salt and pepper, then bake for 30 minutes uncovered.
- Cook the Pasta
Add the uncooked water to the boiling water and cook for 1 minute shy of the package directions for al dente. Once the pasta is cooked, set aside 1 cup of pasta cooking water. Drain the pasta but do not rinse.
- Combine the Creamy Sauce
Remove the baking dish from the oven. Very carefully squeeze the garlic cloves from their skin back into the oil. Be super careful not to splash the oil on yourself, it will be extremely hot. Using a potato masher or large fork, combine smash the garlic and cheese together to make a creamy cheese sauce.
- Coat the Pasta and Serve
After it is combined, toss the pasta with cheese sauce, adding the pasta cooking water a little at a time until the pasta is coated and the sauce is smooth. Add the Parmesan cheese and stir to combine. Serve immediately, garnished with extra Parmesan and fresh parsley.
Can this be made ahead of time?
No, this isn’t really a pasta bake that you can make ahead of time because the sauce cooks all at once. You could roast your garlic and save the oil but you will still need to bake it for the full cooking time with the cream cheese. However, to save a little hands on time the day you are serving, you could make the pasta the night before, save a cup of water, then bring them both to room temperature while the sauce bakes.
Add-Ins for Creamy Pasta Bake
This is a great recipe for leftovers, raiding the pantry for seasonings, or adding quick cooking proteins and veggies.
No Cook Add-Ins
- Toppings: Top your pasta with fresh herbs like parsley, basil, thyme, or add chopped nuts like pine nuts or walnuts.
- Seasonings: Add a teaspoon of spices like smoked paprika, chili powder or cumin with the salt and pepper. Sprinkle some crushed red pepper flakes for some heat, add a seasoning blend mix like Italian seasoning or a spoonful of Pesto Sauce.
- Veggies: Throw raw veggies like halved cherry tomatoes or spinach leaves into the baking dish half way through so they can cook with the garlic and cheese. You can also add thawed frozen veggies or canned veggies.
- Cheese: Feel free to change up or add even more cheesy goodness. Use freshly shredded cheese and stir it in with the cooked sauce before adding the pasta.
- Leftovers: Once the sauce is cooked, throw in some leftover Rotisserie Chicken, Roasted Vegetables, or steak pieces and mix it with the sauce and pasta. Return to the oven and cook until they are heated through.
- Freshly Cooked: You can also freshly cook meat or veggies like Italian sausage, bacon, ground chicken, or Sauteed Mushrooms and then add them to the top before serving.
- Canned Food: If you want to add things like tuna, beans, green chilies, or tomatoes, make sure to drain them first. For beans, rinse and drain them. Mix it into the sauce with the pasta then pop back in the oven until it’s heated through.
Pasta Bake Combination Ideas
- 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes and 1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning, topped with fresh basil and toasted pine nuts
- 1-2 cans of tuna, ½ cup of cheddar cheese, and 1 cup of peas, topped with crushed potato chips
- 2 cups shredded chicken and 2 teaspoons Ranch Dressing Mix, topped with crumbled bacon and chives
- 1 pound of ground beef, 1 can of green chilies, and 1 teaspoon of cumin, topped with tortilla strips
- 1 can of white beans, 1-2 tablespoons of pesto sauce, topped with sauteed mushrooms and fresh parsley
How to Store
Store: This pasta dish can be out for up to 2 hours before it needs to be stored in the fridge. Let it cool before storing it in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Reheat: The best way to reheat this creamy pasta dish is on the stove top. Heat it up over low-medium heat, stirring occasionally. If the sauce is too thick, add milk or cream a little at a time as needed
Freeze: You can freeze this pasta, but just keep in mind the sauce isn’t going to have the same smooth texture when it reheats. It will last up to 3 months in a sealed container.
Really you can use any pasta shape you like, but curved and tube shaped pasta tend to work best for holding all the delicious creamy sauce.
Yes, for this recipe you do need to cook the pasta beforehand because only the sauce ingredients are baked. Cook the pasta just under al dente and save a cup of pasta water to add to the sauce to help it come together better.
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 head garlic
- 8 ounces cream cheese , in a block
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
- 16 ounces ziti pasta
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese , freshly shredded
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Add oil to the baking dish.
- Slice the top off the head of garlic exposing a bit of each of the cloves.
- Place upside down in the baking dish into the oil.
- Add the cream cheese and coat in the oil.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Bake for 30 minutes.
- While the garlic is cooking cook the pasta one minute shy of the ingredients on the box.
- Reserve 1 cup of pasta water and drain the remaining water from the pasta.
- When the garlic and cheese comes out of the oven squeeze the garlic out of the skins.
- Mash together with the cream cheese and add in the pasta and pasta water.
- Stir to combine, add in Parmesan cheese and serve.