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!

MARGHERITA PASTA VIDEO

Garlic Mozzarella Margherita Pasta

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.  From their Chicken Parmesan to Shrimp Fettuccine Alfredo , to their Italian Meatballs,  I am a huge fan.

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.

Garlic Mozzarella Margherita Pasta with basil.

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!

Showing how to make Garlic Mozzarella Margherita Pasta with basil by preparing herbs and vegetables.

How to Make 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…

 Showing how to make Garlic Mozzarella Margherita Pasta by cooking tomatoes in a pan.

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 like in my Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta (drool worthy) 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.

Showing how to make Garlic Mozzarella Margherita Pasta adding spices to the sauce.

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.

Showing how to make Garlic Mozzarella Margherita Pasta by adding Parmesan cheese.

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.

Showing how to make Garlic Mozzarella Margherita Pasta with basil by adding tomatoes.

And then add your pasta…

Adding pasta to the sauce showing how to make Garlic Mozzarella Margherita Pasta with basil.

Stir to coat…

Stirring Garlic Mozzarella Margherita Pasta with basil. with a wood spoon.

 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.

Close up of a pan of Garlic Mozzarella Margherita Pasta with basil.

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

25 Minute Margherita Pasta (Lightened Up!)

25 Minute LIGHTENED UP Margherita Pasta bursting with fresh tomatoes and basil in a garlic, mozzarella Parmesan sauce! your favorite Margherita pizza in creamy pasta form!
Servings: 6 -8 servings
Prep Time: 13 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes

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 ⅓ less fat)
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed basil, chopped

Garnish

  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • fresh basil, chiffonade

Instructions

  • Cook pasta al dente according to package directions in generously salted water. Remove 1 cup pasta water before draining.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • Reduce heat to low and stir in Parmesan cheese until melted, followed by mozzarella cheese until melted, followed by cream cheese until melted.
  • 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.
  • Garnish with freshly grated Parmesan Cheese and additional basil if desired.

Notes

Don't miss the "how to make" recipe video at the top of the post!

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69 Comments

  1. Mark Novack says

    If you were gonna add any meat to this what/how would you do it? Grilled chicken, Italian meat balls, Italian turkey sausage? You are my favorite chef by the way, I probably make a recipe from your site at least every other week! Do you ever do any Indian recipes? M

    • Jen says

      Hi Mark, you made my day! I am so honored you love my recipes so much, thank you!!! As far as protein, I think ground Italian sausage would be delicious! Chicken would also be great – just depends on what you’re craving! For the chicken, I suggest marinating it my marinade from this recipe: https://carlsbadcravings.com/skinny-chicken-parmesan-recipe/

    • Joanna says

      Oh my this was PHENOMENAL! Even my 9 month old inhaled it! YUM YUM YUM! This will go into our normal rotation of dishes! The only change we would make it to add a little more salt. Other than that, holy moly it was great! Next time I’m going to add some grilled chicken on top, but that’s just a bonus to this recipe!

      • Jen says

        Thanks so much for your awesome review Joanna! I’m thrilled this pasta was a huge hit with the entire family!

  2. Ginger says

    We absolutely love this stuff!! I just switch out the chicken broth with veggie broth and left out the bouillon cubes to make it vegetarian. So good!!

    • Jen says

      YAY! I’m so happy it’s a hit and you can easily make it vegetarian! Thanks Ginger!

  3. Raquel says

    OMG, it is delicious!! Did some minor subs, like less parm cheese, veggie stock … and it stil came out great. My husband really liked it even tho there’s no meat in it. It’s rare when he likes a dish without meat.

    • Jen says

      yesss! Thank you so much Raquel, I’m so happy even your meat-loving husband loved it!

  4. Laura says

    This is delicious. I didn’t add the pasta water because I like my sauce thick. The second half of the tomatoes is perfect bc there is a little crunch added. So yummy! One of my favorite recipes!

    • Jen says

      I’m thrilled this is one of your favorite recipes, thanks so much Laura!

  5. Ashley Lindsey says

    This dish turneed out delish! I added grilled chicken which I just seasoned with olive oil and Italian seasonings. I love the little bite that the red pepper flakes gives it. I will definitely recommend this and make it again! Thanks for the recipe!

    • Jen says

      Awesome Ashley, I’m so happy it was a winner and your chicken addition sounds perfect! Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  6. Rachael says

    I absolutely LOVE this dish so much. It’s one of my faves!!! Instead of milk however, could I substitute heavy cream?

    • Jen says

      I’m so pleased you love this pasta Rachael! A full 1 1/2 cups heavy cream might be too heavy/thick – maybe try 1 cup milk and 1/2 cup heavy cream and adjust from there.

  7. Shawna Zimmerman says

    This dish was a hit with everyone! I used whole wheat pasta and subbed veggie broth and boullion for the chicken and it was delicious! I will be adding this to my regular rotation. Thanks for the great recipe!

    • Jen says

      You are so welcome Shawna! I’m so happy it was a hit and you were able to make those healthy swaps with great success!

  8. Teena McElroy says

    Made this tonight with tomatoes from a friend’s garden. Best thing I’ve cooked and eaten in a longtime. It’s a keeper.

    • Jen says

      This marghrita pasta sounds heavenly with garden tomatoes! I’m thrilled it’s the best thing you’ve eaten in a while -thank you!

  9. Kathy Melanson says

    OMG my absolute most favorite pasta dish!! Thank you!!

    • Jen says

      I love hearing that, thank you so much Kathy!

  10. Andrea says

    Super good recipe! Honesty, your website is my goto for dinner.
    We served the sauce on the side, and now have a tonne leftover. What are your thoughts on freezing the sauce in individual portions? Think it would hold up when thawed?

    • Jen says

      Thanks so much Andrea, I’m honored my site is your dinner go-to! I’m not sure how well it would hold up due to the all he dairy – it might become a little grainy but I think it would still taste good.

  11. Bev Dube' says

    Hello Jen! I just want you to know we made this tonight and my husband CANNOT stop talking about how good this was!! We added grilled shrimp and instead of Roma tomatoes, added cherry tomatoes and truffle salt! Thank you once again for over the top recipes!! I don’t know why I have any cookbooks (and trust me over the past 45 years I have collected a few!!!) when all I do is use yours….ALL THE TIME!! THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART FOR SO MANY TREASURES!!

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment Bev and for making my day xoxo! I’m honored you have made and loved so many of my recipes and that this Margherita Pasta was another win! Your additions of shrimp and truffle salt sound divine!

  12. Cathy says

    Does anyone know how it would be if you left out the cream cheese?

    • Jen says

      It will still be tasty just not quite as rich and creamy.

  13. Leigh says

    Last night, I made this dish for my hubby. He loved it much like the other dishes I prepare from your website. A big hit for us! Thank you for sharing!!

    • Jen says

      Thanks so much Leigh, I’m so pleased it was another winner! Thanks for making my recipes!

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