Easy wins again! I’m on day 6 of an 8 day work week, so that means two things: I’m tired and I’m hungry. Quick skillet pasta dishes like this Creamy Tomato and Spinach Pasta are perfect for such an occasion. They require only a few ingredients, cook up super fast, and leave me feeling full and happy! :)
Anyway, tomorrow is Monday (again) and the week will be long, so I hope this recipe helps make dinner time a little faster, easier, and more enjoyable for you this week! Enjoy!
Originally posted 7-28-2013, updated 5-21-2020.
What to Serve with Creamy Tomato and Spinach Pasta
This Creamy Tomato and Spinach Pasta recipe is kind of a meal on its own, but you may want to add a side dish, like crusty Garlic Bread, No Knead Focaccia Rolls, or a light Simple Side Salad. You can also beef up the recipe by adding some Garlic Herb Baked Chicken Breasts, or browning some Italian sausage in the skillet in the beginning, before the onion and garlic.
Can I Substitute the Cream Cheese?
This version of Creamy Tomato and Spinach Pasta uses just a touch of cream cheese and Parmesan to make a regular tomato sauce ultra-rich and creamy. If you’re not into cream cheese, you could also add a splash (1/4 cup or so) of half and half or heavy cream to achieve a similar effect.
Can I Use a Different Pasta?
I used regular pasta, but whole wheat would actually be pretty good in this and would add some extra fiber and nutrients to make it a more well rounded meal. You can also switch out the shape for another short pasta, like bowtie pasta or rotini.
Can I Use Frozen Spinach?
I was lucky enough to get spinach on sale for $0.99 per bag (score!), but if fresh spinach is just out of your price range, you can add about 8oz. frozen spinach that has been thawed and squeezed of its excess moisture. This would also be really good with sliced mushrooms. Just cook the mushrooms along with the onions and garlic in the beginning. Or, hey, you could always do a plain creamy tomato sauce. Nothin’ wrong with that!
Creamy Tomato and Spinach Pasta
- 1/2 lb. penne pasta ($0.75)
- 1 yellow onion ($0.28)
- 2 cloves garlic ($0.16)
- 1 Tbsp olive oil ($0.16)
- 1 15oz. can diced tomatoes ($0.59)
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano ($0.05)
- 1/2 tsp dried basil ($0.05)
- 1 pinch crushed red pepper (optional) ($0.02)
- 1/2 tsp salt ($0.02)
- freshly cracked black pepper to taste ($0.03)
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste ($0.08)
- 2 oz. cream cheese ($0.20)
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan ($0.31)
- 4 oz. fresh spinach ($0.65)
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and continue to boil until tender (7-10 minutes). Drain the pasta in a colander.
- While the pasta is cooking, prepare the creamy tomato sauce. Dice the onion and mince the garlic. Add the onion, garlic, and olive oil to a large skillet and sauté over medium heat until the onions are soft and translucent (3-5 minutes).
- Add the diced tomatoes (with juices), oregano, basil, crushed red pepper, salt, and some freshly cracked pepper to the skillet. Stir to combine. Add the tomato paste and a 1/2 cup of water to the skillet and stir until the tomato paste has mixed into the sauce.
- Turn the heat down to low. Cut the cream cheese into a few pieces and then add them to the skillet with the tomato sauce. Use a whisk to stir the sauce until the cream cheese has fully melted and the sauce is creamy. Add the Parmesan to the skillet and stir until it is melted into the sauce.
- Add the fresh spinach to the skillet and gently stir it into the sauce until it has wilted (2-3 minutes). Add the pasta and stir until it is well coated in the creamy tomato sauce. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper as needed. Serve warm.
See how we calculate recipe costs here.
Love this dish? Try our Spinach Tortellini Skillet!
How to Make Creamy Tomato and Spinach Pasta – Step by Step Photos
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, add 8oz. penne pasta. Boil the pasta until tender, then drain in a colander. You’ll prepare the creamy tomato sauce while the pasta is cooking.
Dice one onion and mince two cloves of garlic. Add them to a large skillet with 1 Tbsp olive oil. Sauté over medium heat for 3-5 minutes, or until the onion is soft and translucent.
Add ½ tsp dried basil, ½ tsp dried oregano, 1/2 tsp salt, a pinch of crushed red pepper, some freshly cracked pepper, and one 15oz. can diced tomatoes (with juices) to the skillet and stir to combine.
Also, add 2 Tbsp tomato paste and ½ cup water to the skillet. This will help make the sauce thicker and with a more tomatoey punch. Continue to stir and cook over medium heat until the tomato paste has been mixed into the sauce.
Turn the heat down to low. Cut 2 oz. cream cheese into chunks and add it to the skillet. Stir or whisk the sauce until the cream cheese has melted into the sauce. It will look a little clumpy at first, but the cream cheese will eventually melt and the sauce will smooth out.
Once the cream cheese has melted in, add ¼ cup grated Parmesan. Stir until the Parmesan has melted into the sauce.
Add 4 oz. fresh spinach to the skillet. Stir the skillet until the heat from the sauce wilts the spinach (1-2 minutes).
Finally, add the cooked and drained pasta to the skillet and stir to combine.
Serve immediately and enjoy!
Shown garnished with another pinch of Parmesan and freshly cracked pepper.
I’m dairy free. Do you think I should try vegan cream cheese or maybe hummus instead of regular cream cheese?
I would say vegan or dairy-free cream cheese will most likely be the best substitute. However, you can also try using some full-fat coconut milk/cream or pureed silken tofu. For the Parmesan, you could swap it for a pinch of Nutritional Yeast (but use a little less, because a little goes a long way!) ~ Marion :)
Easy and delicious!! Loved it! Made it exactly as written.
I made it exactly as instructed. Very easy to make and testy. Thank you!