A delightfully smooth, silky and creamy tomato and mascarpone pasta sauce that you can whip up in less than 30 minutes. Simple yet somewhat decadent, you're sure to love tucking into this delicious pasta dish.
When it comes to mascarpone, cheesecakes, and frosting may be the first things that come to mind. But Mascarpone is not just for dessert, it's also a game-changer for savory dishes adding a distinct, slightly sweet, and tangy richness that you don't get from cream and regular cream cheese.
If you're partial to creamy pasta dishes you might also like to try my Easy Chicken Alfredo Tortellini Soup (with mushrooms & spinach), Zucchini Mushroom Pasta, or Fusilli with a Spicy Vodka Cream Sauce. Or for some lighter tomato-based recipes try Tomato & Chicken Orzo Soup and Rigatoni Puttanesca.
The post contains additional information and helpful tips to ensure the recipe turns out great the first time. Please use the link above to jump to the recipe card at the end if you are in a hurry!
5 reasons why you'll love this recipe:
- A rich, and creamy sauce, made with tomato puree (passata) to get it extra smooth
- Easy pasta recipe, ready in 25 minutes
- Uses simple ingredients
Pasta: I tend to opt for long pasta varieties like tagliatelle and linguine. There's something lovely about the way they glide through the smooth silky sauce. That said, short kinds of pasta like penne pasta, rigatoni or fusilli will also work well. It really comes down to personal preference.
Tomato puree (passata) and paste (tomato puree): I tested the recipe with passata, chopped tomatoes, and fresh tomatoes. I settled on passata because I loved the way its smooth texture complemented the richness of the mascarpone. I also add a little tomato paste (puree) to ensure the sauce still has a bold tomatoey flavor when the mascarpone is added.
Mascarpone: You should be able to find mascarpone in the dairy section of your local supermarket or store. Any brand should work well. I often find the store's own brand is the only one available and I've had success with these. Mascarpone has a little more sweetness and acidity than other cream cheeses, which gives it a distinct rich flavour.
Herbs and seasoning: I've added these other ingredients to the sauce to bring further depth and complexity:
- Anchovy paste - for salty umami flavour
- Balsamic vinegar - for added richness and sweetness
- Sugar - for sweetness
- Lemon juice - to add bright notes of citrusy freshness that contrast the creamy richness of the sauce
- Herbs - the sauce contains dry oregano and fresh basil leaves. Feel free to use fresh oregano if you have it at a ratio of 3:1
You could use a different type of green vegetable like beans or broccoli, but you might need to pre-boil them so they are already tender when you add them to the sauce.
Note that the recipe has not been tested with all the substitutions and variations below, so the results cannot be guaranteed.
- Tomato passata: If you prefer a chunkier texture you could switch up the passata for tinned chopped tomatoes.
- Mascarpone: Another type of cream cheese or heavy cream will also work but will alter the flavor of the sauce.
- Anchovy paste - I highly recommend getting your hands on some of this because it's cheap, keeps for a long time in the fridge and is great for adding salty umami flavor to sauces. That said it's optional, and you can also add salt to taste
Mascarpone cheese sauce is super versatile. Here's a few ways you can adapt it to suit your mood and appetite.
- Switch the tomato passata for tinned tomatoes if you prefer a chunkier texture or add sun-dried tomatoes.
- Add red pepper flakes or chili flakes to give the sauce a little kick
- Serve the sauce with gnocchi or Sweet Potato Gnocchi instead of pasta
- Serve the sauce with store-bought ravioli or tortellini
- Add veggies like spinach or courgette/zucchini
- Add mushrooms for more umami flavor
- Throw in some leftover chicken or sausage meat for extra protein
- Serve with gluten-free pasta
🧑🍳 Recipe steps
Step 1: Put a large skillet on a medium-low heat, add olive oil and add the onions when the oil becomes hot and fry for few minutes until soft and translucent, then add the garlic.
Step 2: Pour the tomato puree (passata) and stock into the pan, add the tomato paste (puree), anchovy paste (or salt), balsamic vinegar, dried oregano and sugar and let the sauce simmer for 10 minutes.
Step 3: Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the mascarpone, fresh basil and lemon juice.
Step 4: Add the cooked al dente pasta to the sauce and a tablespoon or two of reserved pasta water to make the sauce extra smooth and silky. Serve immediately, topped with freshly grated Parmesan and freshly ground black pepper.
🍽️ Serving suggestions
Mascarpone pasta sauce is delicious, and satisfying and can be enjoyed as a standalone meal. However, pairing it with a simple green salad can help balance out the richness of the sauce.
A little garlic bread on the side and a glass of dry white wine will also go nicely.
👍 Expert tips
- Salt the pasta water generously. It should be as salty as the ocean. It might seem like a lot of salt but remember that most of it will be poured away when you drain the pasta water.
- Reserve some pasta water before draining the cooked pasta. You'll need to add a few tablespoons at the end to make the sauce smooth and silky.
- Add the mascarpone and lemon juice at the end of the cooking process, just before you add the cooked pasta. Adding these two ingredients earlier will result in a thick craggy sauce with muted citrusy flavours.
Once opened, mascarpone will keep in the fridge for up to one week as long as it's covered and airtight. For unopened mascarpone refer to the use-by date on the packaging. Do not use mascarpone that has visible mould and a sour smell. These are signs it has gone bad.
You can swap the mascarpone for the same amount of heavy cream, but the flavors and textures in the dish will be a little different. Mascarpone has a lighter silkier texture than cream and a more pronounced sweet and tangy taste.
Mascarpone is much milder than most cheeses. It's a soft, spreadable cheese that is made from cream, and it has a high-fat content that gives it a rich and creamy texture with a slightly sweet taste with a hint of tanginess.
You can substitute the passata with the same volume of tinned/canned tomatoes but this will give the sauce a chunkier texture.
The pasta sauce can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days and added to cooked pasta. Place the sauce in an airtight container or in a bowl covered with plastic wrap and refrigerate. You can then reheat on the stove and add cooked pasta for a very speedy weeknight meal.
Mascarpone pasta sauce is not suitable for freezing.
How to use leftover mascarpone cheese
Wondering what to do with the mascarpone that's left in the tub? There are lots of ways to put it to good use:
- Pasta dishes: stuffed pasta shells, creamy pasta
- Soup: add to tomato soup to make it creamier and richer
- Mashed potato: mascarpone is a great way to make it extra creamy
- Spread: on toast, bagels, or crackers, either on its own or mixed with other ingredients like honey, jam, or fresh herbs.
- Dip: Mix with herbs, spices, or other flavorings to make a delicious dip for veggies, chips, or bread.
😋 More easy pasta recipes
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Mascarpone Pasta (with a Creamy Tomato Sauce)
- 1 large frying pan
- 400 g (14 oz) dried pasta (Note 1)
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves crushed
- 400 ml (1 ¾ cups) tomato puree (passata) (Note 2)
- 2 tbsp tomato paste (puree)
- 200 ml (¾ cup) chicken or veg stock
- anchovy paste or salt to taste (Note 4)
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar optional
- 1.5 tsp oregano (Note 5)
- 1.5 tsp sugar
- 110 g (½ cup) mascarpone (Note 3)
- 2 tbsp lemon juice (Note 6)
- 1 large handful torn fresh basil
To serve (optional)
- freshly grated Parmesan
- freshly ground black pepper
- Bring a large pan of generously salted water to boil and cook the pasta according to packet instructions.
- Heat a large pan over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and cook until softened, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook for an additional 30 seconds.
- Pour in the tomato passata, tomato puree and stock.
- Add the anchovy paste (or salt), black pepper, balsamic vinegar, dried oregano, and sugar. Simmer for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- It's likely the pasta will be done at this point. Make sure you reserve a little of the pasta water before draining it.
- Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the mascarpone, chopped fresh basil and lemon juice.
- Toss in the pasta, add 1-2 tablespoons of the reserved pasta water if needed, and serve immediately with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and black pepper.
- Pasta: I tend to opt for long pasta varieties like tagliatelle and linguine, but shorter varieties can also work well.
- Tomato puree (passata): You can use tinned chopped tomatoes instead but the sauce will have a chunkier texture.
- Mascarpone: You should be able to find mascarpone in the dairy section of your local supermarket or store. You can use the same volume of heavy cream instead but the sauce will not be as rich and silky.
- Anchovy paste: Optional but great for adding salty umami flavour, but you can use salt instead. I recommend adding salt to taste because the amount needed can vary depending on how salty your stock is.
- Oregano: you can use fresh instead of dried at a ratio of three to one. (e.g. 3 teaspoons of fresh for every teaspoon of dried)
- Lemon juice: 1 tablespoon of lemon juice is roughly equivalent to ½ lemon.