Made with pantry staples in just 30 minutes, this Tomato Cream Sauce is pure magic. It’s rich and creamy, but so quick and simple. I love it for quick, kid-friendly weeknight dinners, but it’s luxurious enough to impress a crowd too.
Maybe I should call this “magic pasta sauce” because that’s pretty much what it is – that recipe you pull out of your back pocket in the eleventh hour when the fridge is empty and the kids are hangry and your remaining functioning brain cells are actually fighting to kill each other off because it’s just been “that” kind of a day.
Lick-the-plate Tomato Cream Sauce, AKA Magic Pasta Sauce.
I reach for this recipe when I’m craving a comforting pasta recipe, but a big pot of Sunday sauce is so not in the cards.
It’s my go-to dinner when my toddler gives me that look at daycare pick-up and I know I’m going to be cooking with a kid on my hip.
But I also reach for this creamy tomato sauce when I need to feed a crowd, because there’s no meal more people-pleasing than pasta. From Christmas Eve dinner to birthday parties and everything in-between, this quick and comforting pasta with tomato cream sauce is there for me.
Creamy Tomato Sauce Ingredients
Using just a handful of pantry staples, this tomato cream sauce is ready in just 30 minutes. Because this sauce is so quick, you’ll need a few key ingredients to create a deep, flavorful sauce (a feat generally reserved for long, slow-simmered Italian red sauces) – butter, cream, and the right canned tomatoes.
- Sweet onions and fresh garlic are the aromatic flavor base.
- A good dose of salt brings out the flavor of canned tomatoes – don’t skimp, but do check to see if your canned tomatoes already contain salt and adjust as necessary (see the recipe card).
- Dried herbs (basil, parsley, oregano) add some depth, while fresh basil keeps the sauce fresh.
- A few chunks of good quality butter (like Kerrygold) make this sauce so rich, plus the fat tamps down the acidity in the tomatoes.
- A splash of heavy cream at the end – not too much – rounds out the butter and of course gives this creamy tomato sauce it’s name.
- And of course, tomatoes. But not just any tomatoes – because this is a quick sauce that mimics a long, slow-cooked red sauce, using the right tomatoes will give the best flavor. Fire-roasted whole canned tomatoes are the best choice. Fire roasted tomatoes are just that – tomatoes charred over an open fire. This process both cooks the tomatoes and caramelizes their natural sugars, creating a sweet and smoky flavor full of depth that regular canned tomatoes can’t touch. Their flavor pairs particularly well with cream and butter, resulting in a sauce that’s so rich and complex you’ll swear it was cooked for hours.
Tools You’ll Need
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- Dutch Oven: because tomatoes are acidic, you’ll want to use non-reactive cookware for preparing tomato sauce. Enameled dutch ovens are always a great choice. A stainless steel stockpot is also ideal, but watch the temperature to ensure your onions don’t scald.
- Immersion Blender: for blending the cooked sauce into a smooth, creamy finish. If you don’t have an immersion blender, you have two choices: (1) keep the sauce on the chunkier side (I’ve done this, and while the flavor is still outstanding, my kids don’t like the consistency) or (2) transfer the sauce to a blender and puree in batches.
How to Make Weeknight Tomato Cream Sauce
The portion sizes make a double batch of this creamy tomato sauce – one for tonight, and one for a freezer stash (or leftovers for the rest of the week). Cook once and eat twice for the win! Serve this over short pasta with ridges (like rigatoni, penne, or rotini) to “catch” the sauce. Add a simple tossed salad or steamed vegetable like broccoli for a well-rounded meal.
- Sautee diced onions in a splash of olive oil until soft. Add fresh garlic and sautee until fragrant (about a minute).
- Add the canned tomatoes, dried herbs, and salt. Give everything a good stir, then place the butter on top.
- Simmer the sauce for 20 minutes. While the sauce simmers, gently crush the whole tomatoes using the back of a wooden spoon to break them down.
- Turn off the heat and add the cream.
Use an immersion blender to puree the sauce until smooth. Taste for seasoning and adjust with additional salt or cream if necessary. Be careful not to use too much cream, as you’ll want the flavor of the tomatoes to really shine.
Toss the tomato cream sauce with your favorite short, ridged pasta (we used rigatoni). The ridges on pasta shapes like rigatoni and penne will hold onto the thick, rich sauce better than a smooth, long pasta like spaghetti or bucatini.
Top with fresh shaved parmesan cheese and lots of fresh basil.
My Best Tips for Perfect Creamy Tomato Sauce
- Use fire-roasted tomatoes for superior depth and flavor.
- Season generously with salt to bring out the flavor of the tomatoes.
- Don’t use too much cream! Use just enough to enhance the flavor of the tomatoes and create a creamy consistency, but not so much that the cream overpowers the sauce.
- Choose the right pasta shape – a short, ridged pasta will grab onto the thick sauce better than a smooth pasta shape.
- Garnish generously with fresh basil for layered flavor.
More of Our Favorite Italian Recipes
- Sunday Sauce with Homemade Meatballs
- Caprese Chicken
- Italian Sausage and Peppers over Creamy Cauliflower Puree
- Ricotta Pasta with Peas and Leeks
- Caprese Pasta with Italian Sausage
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Weeknight Tomato Cream SaucePrint Recipe Rate This Recipe Pin Recipe
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium sweet onion diced
- 4 cloves garlic smashed
- 2 28-oz cans fire roasted whole tomatoes
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1/2 tsp dried parsley
- pinch oregano
- 5 tbsp butter use good butter, like Kerrygold
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup fresh basil torn or julienned
- Heat a dutch oven over medium heat. Add the olive oil and heat until it shimmers. Add the onions and sautee until translucent - do not brown - about 5 minutes. Add the garlic cloves and sautee, stirring continuously, until fragrant (about a minute).
- Add the tomatoes with their juices, salt, dried basil, parsley, and oregano. Give everything a good stir. Place the butter on top. Increase the heat to high and bring the liquid to a simmer. Adjust the heat to low or medium low to maintain a consistent simmer with slow, large bubbles. Cover and simmer at least 20 minutes. Stir the sauce occasionally and when you do so, use the back of a wooden spoon to gently crush the tomatoes.
- Turn off the heat, then add the cream. Puree with an immersion blender until smooth. Taste for seasoning and add additional salt or cream if needed. Toss half the sauce with one pound of a cooked short pasta like rigatoni. Portion onto plates or into pasta bowls and garnish with fresh basil. Freeze the remaining half of the pasta sauce in a tightly sealed container for up to 3 months.
- Check your canned tomatoes for salt content - if salt has been added, cut the salt amount in half to start. You can always add more at the end if more salt is needed.
- Choose the right pasta shape - a short, ridged pasta like rigatoni or penne will grab onto the thick sauce better than a smooth pasta shape.
- Immersion Blender