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!
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!)
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: 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.
- 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.
- 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!
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.
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.
More easy pasta recipes
Creamy Tomato Pasta with Chickpeas
- 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
- 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!
- 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.
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