Garlic Mozzarella Margherita Pasta

25 Minute LIGHTENED UP Margherita Pasta bursting with fresh tomatoes and basil in a garlic, mozzarella Parmesan sauce!  AKA your favorite Margherita pizza in creamy, cheesy pasta form!

If you ever visit Carlsbad, California you owe yourself a trip to to the best hole in the wall Italian spot with the best Margherita pizza  – Spiritos Italian Diner.  The restaurant was actually featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives with Guy Fieri a few years ago – and for good reason.  All the Italian food is made from scratch and they even make their homemade pizza dough twice a day.  It was at Spiritos that I fell in love with Margherita pizza.

I typically like my pizzas with a few more bells and whistles, but the fresh, simple premium ingredients of a Margherita pizza are pure magic, and coincidentally are the colors of the Italian flag.  Traditional Margherita pizza is topped with vine-ripened tomatoes (never sauce), extra virgin olive oil, garlic, sweet basil, and mozzarella on a crispy, thin crust.

I wanted to channel my love for Margherita pizza into pasta form for a simple, fresh yet cheesy pasta bursting with juicy tomatoes, garlic and basil that can be on the table in under 30 minutes.  This Margherita Pasta is made in one pot (aside from boiling pasta), surprisingly simple to make and uses pantry ingredients.  The only ingredients you might need to buy are tomatoes and basil but if you have a garden, you are always ready for Margherita pasta!

To make this easy Margherita Pasta, saute half of your freshly chopped tomatoes in some butter and olive oil until soft, about 5 minutes then add your garlic and saute another 30 seconds.  I like loads of garlic in this Margherita Pasta, as garlic is one of the distinctive elements in Margherita Pizza, so feel free to add more or less, we like more…

Next, sprinkle in flour and cook while stirring for 2 minutes to cook out the raw flour flavor – the mixture will become quite thick.  By using flour and creating a roux, we don’t need to use heavy cream and can use a little more cheese :).  Turn heat to low then slowly whisk in chicken broth, then milk, stirring constantly until smooth. Bring sauce to a simmer, stir in your spices and continue to simmer until slightly thickened.

Reduce heat to low and stir in Parmesan cheese until melted, followed by mozzarella cheese until melted, followed by cream cheese until melted.  The use of both Parmesan and mozzarella create a multi-dimensional sauce and the cream cheese adds a layer of tangy silkiness.

Finally, the best part – stir in your remaining tomatoes and fresh basil.  I like to use both fresh tomatoes and our previously sauteed tomatoes for the added flavor and textural dimension.

And then add your pasta…

Stir to coat…

And then the real best part – eat!

Margherita Pasta – cheesy, garlicy, quick, easy, delicious bursting with fresh basil and tomatoes.  Because sometimes simple is pure magic.

25 Minute Margherita Pasta

Prep Time 13 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 8 people

Ingredients

  • 1 lb spaghetti or pasta of choice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 onion, chopped
  • 6 Roma tomatoes, chopped divided
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 teaspoons chicken bouillon
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/2 tsp EACH dried oregano, dried basil, salt
  • 1/4 tsp EACH pepper, red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 oz. cream cheese, softetned (I use 1/3 less fat)
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed basil, chopped

Garnish

  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • fresh basil, chiffonade

Instructions

  1. Cook pasta al dente according to package directions in generously salted water. Remove 1 cup pasta water before draining.

  2. Melt butter in olive oil over medium-low heat in a large skillet. Increase heat to medium and add onions and HALF of the tomatoes and sauté for 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook an additional 30 seconds. Sprinkle in flour and cook while stirring for 2 minutes (it will be thick).

  3. Turn heat to low then slowly whisk in chicken broth, then milk, stirring constantly until smooth. Turn heat to medium high and bring the sauce to a simmer. Stir in chicken bouillon, spices and continue to simmer until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally.

  4. Reduce heat to low and stir in Parmesan cheese until melted, followed by mozzarella cheese until melted, followed by cream cheese until melted.

  5. Stir in remaining tomatoes and fresh basil. Stir in pasta until well coated, adding additional reserved pasta water a little at a time if needed to reach desired consistency. Taste and season with additional salt, pepper and/or red pepper flakes to taste.

  6. Garnish with freshly grated Parmesan Cheese and additional basil if desired.