This Garlic Parmesan Linguine recipe is on the insanely easy side, so it easily tops my list for dinner ideas. So easy that Nonnas everywhere might give me the stink eye and I’m okay with that.
Oh, pasta. I love you so. One of things I learned from our time in Italy was that pasta can be super involved, but also insanely easy.
What's In This Article
What is the Difference Between Carbonara, Alfredo, Cacio e Pepe?
You see, I know how to make a classic carbonara, alfredo and cacio e pepe, but sometimes life calls for time saving (and error reducing) hacks. Let me introduce you to what is commonly called cream cheese spaghetti, but here we used linguine.
Before we get into the easy recipe, let’s discuss the difference so we are all on the same page.
Carbonara– The most common pasta dish in Rome is rarely seen here in the states and it is such a shame. Sometimes called spaghetti carbonara, the traditional pasta of choice is actually bucatini, a long, round pasta with a little hole through the center.
Carbonara is made from egg yolks whisked with hot pasta water and grated cheese. This results in an super rich and creamy sauce that essentially cooks on the hot pasta. Timing and speed is the name of this game.
Alfredo– Traditionalists will go gaga over debating “real alfredo”. It isn’t even an authentic Italian recipe, it is very much Italian American.
The majority of alfredo recipes (including my own) use cream with cheese to make a velvety cheese sauce, but the real alfredo uses grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese and butter. Similar to carbonara, the hot pasta helps to melt and create the silky sauce.
Cacio e Pepe– Literally translating to cheese and pepper, this dish leaves out the binder of eggs, cream or butter and just uses black pepper and grated Pecorino Romano cheese.
Also of Roman descent, it is most frequently served with spaghetti, tonnarelli or bucatini. I’m am also realizing I don’t have one on my site and maybe I should get cracking on that!
Cream Cheese Spaghetti – Ha! Even the name doesn’t sound as sophisticated, which is why I’ve changed mine to Garlic Parmesan Linguine. Creating a sauce with pasta is what sounds intimidating to most home cooks.
Or they just plain need something quick and easy so plopping in a brick of cream cheese was born and even though it is in no way shape or form authentic, it still tastes amazing. Don’t dis it until you try it!
To many folks pasta is just pasta and the type of for any recipe just depends on personal preference. There are over 300 shapes and types of pasta in the world in nearly every single culture.
Each was developed for a specific reason and to accompany a sauce or topping, as complicated or minimal as it might be. There is this fabulous book called The Geometry of Pasta that will tell you all about it along with great recipes.
I choose linguine for this Parmesan Garlic Linguine dish because I needed something hearty and strong. Something angle hair or capellini would be too delicate. Something smaller like elbows or ditalini would just get lost.
Although I choose linguine, there are several shapes of pasta that would be ideal and they include:
- Spaghetti – by far the most popular world wide, it translates to “length of a cord” and is long and thin. Perfect for delicate and thick sauces and just about any type of protein or vegetable. The most verstile, for sure.
- Bucatini – Long like spaghetti, but thicker, bucatini has a hollow center to allow it to cook to a perfect al dente without the exterior getting soggy before the interior softens at all. In Italian, the name bucatini translates to “hole” or “pierced”.
- Linguine – Long and narrow, linguine is liked if a strand of spaghetti was flattened. It is great for substantial, heavy sauces. It translates to “little tongues”. It is great for this type of sauce, coating to it and carrying it all the way to your mouth!
- Fettuccine – Also long and narrow, it is thinner than lingue, but not as wide tagliatelle. It translates to “small ribbons”.
Parmesan Garlic Linguine
Now that you have way more information than you bargained for to make parmesan garlic linguine, here is what you’ll need and how you make it.
- Linguine Pasta – or other type of long pasta strand.
- Cream cheese– full fat works best, reduced will be okay, I don’t recommend using fat free.
- Fresh garlic– don’t cut corners with jarred garlic. You need to use fresh to get the signature garlicky flavor.
- Parmesan cheese – you can also use parmesan reggiano or even pecorino romano. Whatever you do, I highly recommend freshly grated versus the canned stuff which can be dry and grainy.
- Heavy Cream– you can also use milk or omit this all together. I find the cream cheese melts easier with it.
- Pasta water- Like carbonara, the pasta water helps to thin the sauce for your Parmesan Garlic Linguine and coat the pasta evenly. Pasta water is a little starchy, so it works best to not thin too much and also have a tiny bit of flavor. It is also, presumably hot. if you forget to ladle this out, use the hottest water from that tap with 1 teaspoon of flour whisked in.
- Olive Oil– To cook the garlic and offer subtle undertones. Use a good flavored olive oil since this is a simple dish. Prime ingredients will really shine through.
- Coarse or Flaky Salt– Maldon and Jacobson are my favorites. Both will add the least salty flavor and a crunchy texture to bites.
- Freshly Ground Pepper– Black pepper is fine, but a tri-colored blend straight from the peppermill is my absolute favorite!
How to Make This Linguine Recipe
- Next, cook the linguine to al dente, or softer if you desire.
- After straining the pasta, let us sit in the strainer while you lightly brown fresh garlic in olive oil in the still hot pan. Next, add cubed cream cheese, stirring while it melts.
- When nearly melted, about 3-4 minutes on medium heat, whisk in heavy cream and pasta water to thin it out a tad.
- Lastly, toss with parmesan cheese and hot pasta.
- When plated, top with freshly grated pepper and flakey or coarse sea salt.
- Serve it with a leafy green salad, cheesy bread sticks, buttery homemade garlic knots and a big glass of wine.
I generally make this pasta as a stand alone dish- it is that good, but you can also use it as a side dish to add protein and veggies.
Here are my favorites:
- Grilled or roast chicken
- Seared Scallops
- Sun dried tomatoes- top with julienne tomatoes when plating
- Spinach- toss fresh spinach with the pasta right before serving
- Mushrooms- Cook raw sliced mushrooms with cream cheese while it melts
- Crab or Lobster Meat
- Crushed red pepper or aleppo
You can also use any of our 40+ ways to make jarred alfredo sauce better in this homemade version.
More classic pasta recipes:
- Mom’s Spaghetti and Meatballs
- Linguine and Clam
- Giant No Boil Lasagna
- Spinach Stuffed Shells
- Pomodoro Sauce Recipe
Parmesan Garlic Linguine
- Cook pasta according to package directions. Cook to al dente, or preferred softness. Drain and then return hot pan to stovetop over medium heat.
- Add olive oil and garlic. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until garlic starts to brown and becomes fragrant.
- Add cream cheese, stirring while it heats and melts, approximately 3-4 minutes.
- When melted, whisk in Parmesan cheese, heavy cream and pasta water until blended.
- Toss with hot pasta.
- Plate and top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese, flakey or coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
- If you’ve tried this recipe, come back and let us know how it was in the comments or ratings!