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This white sauce pasta has a flavor-packed basic cream sauce that everyone will love! Enjoy as is or add veggies, shrimp, or chicken for a filling meal.

White sauce pasta
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You never need to make box mac and cheese again. Enter this creamy white sauce pasta! This is a staple recipe in our house. The basic cream sauce is luscious and full of flavor, and get this: it doesn’t even use heavy cream! All you need is a handful of ingredients you probably already have on hand. It takes just 10 minutes to whip up the sauce while you cook the pasta. Eat it straight up, as a pasta side dish, or add cooked veggies or protein to the sauce. A quick dinner idea made in minutes!

Ingredients for white sauce pasta

What you need for this white sauce pasta might already be on hand in your pantry and fridge. You’ll be amazed at the big flavor that comes from a few simple ingredients! It’s so much better than buying boxed mac and cheese. The basic cream sauce uses 2% milk, not heavy cream, and makes the most luscious white sauce you’ll have. Here’s what you need:

  • Pasta of any shape
  • Salted butter
  • Garlic
  • Flour
  • Milk
  • Salt
  • Parmesan cheese

Want a variation? Try this White Wine Sauce, made with white wine and cream! Or go vegan with Vegan Alfredo Sauce.

Easy cream sauce

How to make a cream sauce: some tips!

Making a basic cream sauce is a technique that all home cooks should know. You’ll start by making a roux (pronounced “roo”), flour and butter cooked together and used to thicken sauces. It’s usually made from equal parts of flour and butter. Here are a few tips for this process, because the cooking happens fast:

  • Measure out all the ingredients first, and don’t leave the stove. The cooking process goes quickly, so you don’t want to have to stop to measure an ingredient. Measuring everything out before you cook, called mise en place in French, is essential for this recipe.
  • Saute the garlic only 30 seconds. Be careful not to overcook: it should turn golden and fragrant, but not brown.
  • Add the flour and whisk constantly. The flour can overcook in an instant, turning a brown color, so cook just until it’s golden.
  • Whisk in the milk gradually. Add just a little milk first and whisk it in. Continue adding little bits until the sauce is smooth. Then cook about 5 minutes until thickened, and add the Parmesan and salt.
White sauce pasta

Pasta shapes that work well

You can use any pasta shape for this white sauce pasta, including short or long pasta. We have a few recommendations for what we like best. Here are our top choices for pasta:

  • Bucatini: Bucatini are similar to spaghetti noodles, but they’re hollow. They have more texture than spaghetti and are more fun to eat!
  • Spaghetti or fettucine: These long noodles also work well in a creamy sauce.
  • Rigatoni: For a short noodle, we love the texture and look of rigatoni.
  • Penne: Penne is another shape that works well with a creamy white sauce.
  • Cavatappi: Cavatappi is a fun corkscrew shape that works well here.

Variations: add-in for white sauce pasta!

Here’s the fun part: how to serve white sauce pasta! It’s just carbs and dairy, so you’re going to want to add some colorful veggies or more protein as a side or in the pasta itself. Here are some ideas for add-ins:

  • Tomatoes: Add sliced cherry tomatoes or chopped ripe tomatoes.
  • Zucchini: Thinly slice it and add it raw, or sauté it (use a half batch of this sauteed zucchini).
  • Mushrooms: Add the best herby sauteed mushrooms.
  • Spinach or Kale: Wilt it down in a pan for a few minutes, then lightly salt it before adding. You can also throw baby spinach or baby kale in the colander and drain the pasta water on top of it: it cooks instantly!
  • Broccoli: Chop broccoli and saute it or pan fry it.
  • Bell peppers: Chop and sauté bell peppers with onion, then add.
  • Herbs: Add chopped fresh herbs of any kind.
  • Shrimp: Add Garlic Shrimp for a flavorful main dish.
  • Chicken: Cook chicken breast or add seasoned lemon garlic chicken (without the cream sauce).
White sauce pasta

Fast side dishes to pair

Want to add nutrients to this white sauce pasta in a side dish? Here are a few quick side dishes to add:

This white sauce pasta recipe is…

Vegetarian. For vegan, plant-based, and dairy-free, go to Vegan Fettuccine Alfredo.

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White Sauce Pasta

Creamy White Sauce Pasta

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

4.8 from 4 reviews

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 6 to 8 1x


This white sauce pasta has a flavor-packed basic cream sauce that everyone will love! Enjoy as is or add veggies, shrimp, or chicken for a filling meal.


  • 1 pound pasta noodles of any shape: spaghetti, bucatini, penne, riagotni, cavatappi, etc.
  • 2 tablespoons salted butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 2 cups 2% milk
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese


  1. Start a pot of well salted water to a boil. Boil the pasta until it is just al dente (start tasting a few minutes before the package recommends: you want it to be tender but still a little firm on the inside; usually around 7 to 8 minutes). Drain.
  2. Meanwhile, measure out all ingredients in advance; the cooking process happens fast!
  3. Right after you add the pasta to the pot, start the sauce: In a small or medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the grated garlic and cook 30 seconds until fragrant but not browned.
  4. Add the flour and whisk constantly for 1 minute to 90 seconds, until bubbly and golden. Do not overcook it: the flour can turn brown within a few seconds. Keep an eye on it!
  5. Add a splash of milk and whisk it in: the sauce will instantly turn chunky. Constantly whisking, continue to add splashes of milk and whisk them in until the entire quantity is incorporated and the sauce is smooth.
  6. Reduce the heat and whisk until the sauce thickens and no longer tastes like raw flour, about 5 minutes. Add the salt and Parmesan cheese. Taste and add a pinch or two more salt if desired.
  7. Drain the pasta, then add the sauce. Add a splash or two of milk to loosen the sauce and stir until you have the right consistency. Taste and a few more pinches of salt, if necessary. (The sauce is best freshly made, so we don’t recommend making it in advance). Serve with additional Parmesan cheese if desired.
  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian
  • Diet: Vegetarian

More easy pasta recipes

Love this white sauce pasta? Here a few more easy pasta recipes you might enjoy:

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes and the joy of cooking! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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  1. Adrian says:

    How are we supposed to thicken 2 cups of milk within 5 minutes?!

    1. The sauce is thickened with a roux, a combination of butter and flour used to thicken sauces. We’ve made this many times and it works every time! Let us know if you have a chance to try it out.

  2. Cleopatra Mushipe says:

    I love cooking and you guys are going to improve my cooking skills

  3. Ren says:

    I substituted the regular flour with a mix of almond and sweet rice flour, came out fab!

  4. Spongie says:

    I made this and it was absolutely delicious, I recommend adding some black pepper as a bonus flavor!