Better than a fancy restaurant meal, this quick Creamy Tomato Pasta with Chickpeas is flavorful, nutritious, and just rich enough! Plus, it takes only a few simple pantry staples. I say, it's perfect for a date night in!

Two bowls of creamy tomato pasta with chickpeas in pink tomato sauce with parsley garnish

Simple tomato pasta with chickpeas

Something magical happens when you toss al dente pasta in a pool of homemade tomato sauce that’s been spiked with just enough cream. You end up with creamy tomato pasta, a quick dinner that is better than a fancy restaurant meal!  

This pink pasta is made even better with the addition of canned chickpeas. Chickpeas add both bulk and plant-based protein, making it a more satisfying, nutritious pasta dinner.  

But the star of the show is undoubtedly the luscious tomato cream sauce, which requires just a few staple ingredients to make! And, while it's creamy enough, it is not too heavy (I'm down for a less guilty option!)

close up of creamy tomato pasta with chickpeas in the pan with pink sauce

6-Ingredient pink sauce (tomato cream sauce)

The secret to this pasta recipe is in the pink tomato cream sauce made of just 6 ingredients: extra virgin olive oil, canned tomatoes, dried oregano, red pepper flakes, garlic, and a splash of heavy cream with a bit of the starchy pasta water (the secret to a silky sauce)!  

Think of this pink sauce as an easier version of vodka sauce with fewer ingredients (no vodka, obviously) and less work.  

And even though this tomato sauce is as luxurious as can be, it doesn’t have too much heavy cream in it. I like to start with only ¼ cup of cream, adding a little more as needed. And since it’s not as heavy as other cream-based sauces, this “less guilty” cream sauce doesn’t drown or overpower the pasta. That’s a win!

ingredients for pasta with chickpeas including pasta, heavy cream, tomatoes, chickpeas, parsley, and spices

Ingredients: What you’ll need to make this creamy tomato pasta

With a few simple ingredients, you can have restaurant-quality pasta with tomato cream sauce any night of the week! Here’s what you’ll need to make it:  

  • Short pasta – You’ll need about 8 ounces of pasta. I used paccheri pasta, which is a small pasta with a very large tube, but you can use any short pasta of your choice (like penne).
  • Extra virgin olive oil – A good EVOO with a rich, fruity finish is a good option here.
  • Canned whole tomatoes with their juices – I like to use San Marzano whole canned tomatoes. 
  • Large garlic cloves – You’ll need 4 to 5 minced cloves of garlic. They will add perfectly garlicky flavor without being overwhelming.
  • Canned Chickpeas – 1 15-ounce can chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans) is a great shortcut, but you can cook dried chickpeas from scratch if you prefer. You’ll just need to budget the time to soak and cook the chickpeas in advance (follow my how to cook chickpeas guide).
  • Dried oregano and red pepper flakes – Dried oregano adds a nice earthiness, while red pepper flakes give the pasta dish a very subtle kick. If you don’t like spicy food, you can skip the red pepper flakes.
  • Heavy cream– You will need anywhere from ¼ cup to ¾ cup heavy cream, I usually start with ¼ cup and add a little more to taste (vegan options below).
  • Chopped fresh parsley – Fresh parsley is a bright finishing touch.
  • Grated Cheese such as Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese – or your favorite alternative (vegan options below).

How to make creamy tomato pasta with chickpeas

This creamy pink pasta recipe is a great no-stress meal! Here’s how to make it (printer-friendly recipe below):  

  • Make the silky pasta sauce. In a large pan over medium-high heat, heat 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Once the oil starts to shimmer, add 5 minced garlic cloves and a 28-ounce can of whole San Marzano tomatoes (add their juices as well). Break up the tomatoes a little using your spoon. (Don’t spend a whole lot of time on this. The tomatoes will break down on their own while cooking. This just helps get them started.) Add 1 15-ounce can of chickpeas. (Be sure to drain and rinse them first.) Season with kosher salt, black pepper, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, and ½ to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (depending on your preference). Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 10 to 15 minutes.

    tomato pasta sauce and chickpeas in a pot
  • Cook the pasta while the sauce is simmering. Add 8 ounces short pasta to a pot of salted boiling water and cook according to package instructions until al dente This usually takes 8 to 9 minutes. Save 1 cup of pasta cooking liquid before draining the pasta.

    cooked pasta that has been drained
  • Add starchy water and heavy cream to the sauce. Once the sauce has simmered for 10 to 15 minutes, stir in a bit of the starchy pasta water. And keep the heat low, then stir in ¼ to ¾ cup heavy cream. Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and toss gently to coat. Finish with ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley and a sprinkle of Pecorino Romano or grated Parmesan. I like to add a bit more red pepper flakes as well for a tad extra heat. Serve and enjoy!

    finished pasta and chickpeas cooked in tomato cream sauce

Can you use milk instead of heavy cream in pasta?

The short answer is yes, you can use milk instead of heavy cream in pasta sauce BUT with a few considerations.

You can use a 1:1 substitution of milk to heavy cream.  One thing to keep in mind is that since the tomato sauce is quite acidic, milk may curdle when poured in. To try to avoid this, heat the milk (do not boil it – this can cause it to separate as well) and then slowly mix it into the tomato sauce.

Also remember that milk won’t yield the same creamy richness. You can thicken the sauce by first adding a tablespoon of flour or 2 tablespoons of corn starch to the cold milk before using it in the sauce. This will get you closer to that thick, creamy consistency of heavy cream.  

A bowl of creamy tomato pasta with chickpeas, garnished with parsley. Another bowl to the side

Vegan pasta substitutes

If you’re looking to keep this a dairy-free, vegan, or vegetarian pasta, I have some substitution ideas for you! It’s easy to swap out the dairy-containing ingredients for vegan-friendly options.

  • Use unsweetened oat creamer in place of heavy cream. It will add richness and give you a very similar consistency to heavy cream in the pasta sauce, but the taste will be slightly sweeter. Or, if you like, you can omit the cream, although it will no longer be a creamy pink sauce.
  • Omit the cheese or use a vegan Parmesan cheese alternative.

Serve it with

This tomato pasta with chickpeas is filling on its own, and I often serve it with nothing more than a big salad to start. But, if you like, toss in some pan-seared salmon or shredded rotisserie chicken. 

Leftover and storage tips

Store leftover tomato pasta in the fridge for 3 days or so. Warm up over medium heat, stirring regularly.

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5 from 17 votes

Creamy Tomato Pasta with Chickpeas

Suzy Karadsheh
A bowl of creamy tomato pasta with chickpeas, garnished with parsley. Another bowl to the side
This creamy tomato pasta with chickpeas uses simple pantry staples for flavorful and satisfying pasta dinner that's better than a fancy restaurant meal. The pink tomato cream sauce is luxurious, with only a little bit of cream that you can adjust to your liking (a less guilty option). If you like, you can use milk instead of cream for a lighter sauce. And for a vegan option, swap out the cream for unsweetened oat creamer, and skip the cheese.
Prep – 5 mins
Cook – 20 mins
Cuisine:
Italian
Serves – 4 people
Course:
Entree

Ingredients
  

  • 8 ounces paccheri pasta, any short pasta will work
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 28- ounce can whole San Marzano tomatoes with their juices
  • 4 to 5 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 15- ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ¼ to ¾ cup heavy cream, or Unsweetened oat creamer
  • Grated cheese such as Pecorino Romano or Parmesan or your favorite alternative

Instructions
 

  • In a large pan, heat 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the tomatoes and garlic. Add the chickpeas. Season with kosher salt, black pepper, the oregano, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and cook over low heat for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • While the sauce is cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil and season well with kosher salt. Add the pasta and cook to al dente according to package instructions (about 8 to 9 minutes). Reserve about 1 cup of the pasta cooking water then drain the pasta.
  • After the sauce has been simmering for 10 to 15 minutes, over low heat, stir in the heavy cream (start with ¼ cup and add as you need to) and a little bit of the starchy pasta water (again, start with ¼ cup or so). Taste and adjust the seasoning or add more heavy cream to your liking.
  • Add the cooked pasta to the pan with the sauce and toss to coat. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  • To finish, stir in the parsley and a sprinkle of Pecorino Romano or grated Parmesan. Enjoy!

Video

Notes

  • Vegan substitutions - Use unsweetened oat milk instead of heavy cream (it will taste a bit on the sweater side, however). Swap out the cheese for a vegan alternative, or omit it completely. 
  • Can you use milk instead of heavy cream? Yes. You can use a 1:1 ratio to substitute. If you want to replicate the consistency of heavy cream, use a tablespoon of flour to thicken the milk. Milk can curdle due to the acidity of tomatoes. Heat the milk a little before adding it to the tomato sauce to try and avoid this. Do not boil the milk, as this will likely cause it to separate.
  • Serve it with - Start with a big salad. If you like, throw in some shredded rotisserie chicken or pan-seared salmon.
  • Leftovers and storage - Store leftover tomato pasta in the fridge for 3 days or so. Warm up over medium heat, stirring regularly.
  • Visit Our Shop for quality Mediterranean ingredients including extra virgin olive oils and spices.

Nutrition

Calories: 395.5kcalCarbohydrates: 66.5gProtein: 14.7gFat: 8.8gSaturated Fat: 3.8gMonounsaturated Fat: 2.2gCholesterol: 20.4mgSodium: 738.5mgPotassium: 687mgFiber: 8.8gSugar: 6.3gVitamin A: 549.7IUVitamin C: 19.6mgCalcium: 134.6mgIron: 4.3mg
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I'm Suzy; born and bred right on the shores of the Mediterranean. I'm all about easy, healthy recipes with big Mediterranean flavors. Three values guide my cooking: eat with the seasons; use whole foods; and above all, share! So happy you're here...
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Comments

  1. Can’t wait to try this dis. I love the addition of healthy chickpeas. I think I’m lactose intolerant so will try the unsweetened oat creamer, as you suggested. Thanks for so many diverse Mediterranean recipes. My favorite cuisine now! And I just pre-ordered your new cookbook on Amazon…can’t wait!:)

  2. 5 stars
    Absolutely delicious pasta dish. I really enjoyed the chickpeas in the dish. This was minimal effort for big flavour. Thank you very much for another great recipe. Please start shipping to Canada 🇨🇦

    1. Minimal effort with big flavor is always a goal of mine :). I'm so sorry we don't ship to Canada... we are really trying to find a good solution but keep hitting road blocks.

  3. It was once again a delicious recipe, super easy and a crowd pleaser, Have to confess though that I used Cannelloni beans instead chick peas but I don't think that mattered too much. Hope you forgive me messing around with your recipies?

  4. Suzy I am in love with this site and have shared, shared, shared. Trying out all the recipes and purchased many spices which are wonderful. Quick question on this recipe. What size braiser pan are you using? Keep up the amazing work. Everything about this site is amazing! Especially love the grocery list and videos that accompany everything.
    Thank you!

  5. I got thumbs up on this dish. Another terrific veggie recipe to add to my rotation.

    PS. I’ve been enjoying your Tuesday Cook Along since the start of Covid. Enjoying how your “cooking family” has grown.

  6. 5 stars
    Another home run! The ease of preparation is inversely proportional to the delicious factor. Basically super easy to make and super yummy!

  7. 5 stars
    My one year old and I couldn’t get enough of this! Hubby wasn’t crazy about the chickpeas but kiddo and I adored it! I needed to use up some fresh Basil so I threw it in with the parsley. I’ll be making this again soon!

  8. Hi Suzy,
    I am loving your recipes. Quick question, is Red Pepper Flakes the same as Chilli Flakes. I haven't seen Red Pepper Flakes in Australia.
    Thank you,
    Diane

    1. Hi, Diane. I just did a quick internet search, and it looks like our Red Pepper Flakes are slightly different from Chili Flakes. Red pepper flakes are made up of a variety of peppers, while chili flakes are just made of chili peppers. The spice level and taste are not exactly the same. However, chili flakes may still work here if they are something you enjoy.

  9. Wow!! This is so delicious! I made it for dinner tonight and my hubby said it was a hit :)!! Thank you, Suzy...you are amazing, and your recipes NEVER disappoint!!!!

  10. 5 stars
    A quick run into the store for the pasta and I had everything else on hand for a delicious and quick meal. My husband LOVED this! Can you ever have too much pecorino or chick peas??? I think not! Love the sauce!

  11. Hello Suzie,
    I just love your entire spices, they are so delicious, but I have one question and that is
    is there salt in the spices I am salt sensitive and I have to watch my salt intake. so please
    let me know if salt is one of the ingredients.I love all of the spices and would love to continue using them
    so please tell me if salt is in the spices. if it is can you produce spices without the salt?
    thank you

    1. Hi, Margaret. Yes, some of our spices do contain salt. Notably, za'atar, sumac, harissa, ras el hanout. If you look at the individual spices on our shop page, all of the ones that include a picture of the "Nutrition Facts" label contain sodium.

  12. 5 stars
    Another great recipe from Suzy. My husband loves pasta and this was a very big hit. The sauce was delicious and easy to prepare. Easy prep! Loved the addition of the chickpeas and it's texture. I used half n half and a little less red pepper and put red pepper on the table so it could be added to taste.

  13. I loved that Jenni made this with oat milk, we don’t eat much dairy and I was wondering about using light coconut milk? Too sweet?

  14. This looks & sounds so good. But my husband has an aversion to "cooked tomatoes." It's a texture thing - he's fine with tomato sauce! Would this work at all with canned crushed tomatoes? I'm thinking not. But hoping.

    1. Hi, Mary. I've not tested it, but I don't see why there'd be an issue using canned crushed tomatoes here. The consistency would just be different. I'd love to hear your thoughts if you give this a try!

  15. Can you offer a gluten free option if possible with your pasta dishes? For example, you talk about using some of the starchy water from the pasta to make the sauce silky. I'm assuming that wouldn't work with gluten free pasta? Thanks! I love your recipes and use them often with great success!

    1. Hi, Terri. I do try to mention specific gluten free options when I can, but, in general, with most of my pasta dishes, the regular pasta can be substituted with a gluten free pasta of your choice. And, even with gluten free pasta, reserved pasta water does help in sauces, so still reserve some when draining :).

  16. 5 stars
    I popped in looking for a fun pasta dinner to make this weekend in as a Valentine's dinner and I'm so glad I did! Thank you for an easy and special dinner!