Creamy bow tie pasta is a fast and easy weeknight dinner staple that is perfect for using up leftover ham from the holidays. It's a family favorite in our house, and will be in yours, too!
Looking for other recipes to use up your holiday ham leftovers? Check out our best leftover ham recipes and our ham and bean soup. Serve this with our pear, gouda, and almond salad for a refreshing meal.
Why This Recipe Works
- The bow tie pasta is cooked al dente, so it's done just right.
- Thicken the sauce with a roux made with butter and flour.
- The sauce is very creamy due to the heavy cream and mascarpone.
- The sauce is bright and lemony from the lemon zest and freshly squeezed lemon juice.
The ingredients for this creamy bow tie pasta recipe are all basic pantry staples which are easy to find at your local grocery store. Let's talk about the key ingredients.
- Spices: We used freshly ground nutmeg, salt and black pepper.
- Dairy: We used butter, heavy whipping cream, mascarpone cheese, and freshly grated Parmesan.
- Meat: We used ham that we cut into ¼ inch strips.
- Aromatics: We used spring onion and garlic cloves.
- Vegetables: We used frozen peas, but you can also use fresh.
See recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.
- Substituting Mascarpone Cheese: Use Neufchâtel or cream cheese.
- Vegetarian: Use caramelized onions, mushrooms, and spinach.
- Different Veggies: Try artichoke hearts, red bell peppers or mushrooms.
- Different Meat: Try chicken, shrimp or pancetta.
- Different Pasta: Use fusilli or conchiglie.
How to Make Creamy Bow Tie Pasta
- Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium high heat, then cook the spring onion for 3 minutes until it's softened. Add the minced garlic and saute until it's fragrant. (image 1)
- Whisk in the flour and cook for a minute. (image 2)
- Reduce the heat to medium, then gradually pour in the heavy cream while whisking constantly to make the creamy bow tie sauce smooth. (image 3)
- Whisk in the mascarpone cheese. (image 4)
- Whisk in the ¼ cup of the reserved pasta water, Parmesan cheese, and the dry mustard. Add the ham and peas. Stir and heat through, roughly 3 to 5 minutes. (image 5)
- Remove the saucepan from the heat. Stir in the lemon juice, zest, parsley, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Continue stirring the creamy bow tie sauce until it's well mixed. Note: the sauce makes 4 ½ cups. (image 6)
- Pour the creamy sauce over the cooked bow ties and stir to coat. Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary. (image 7)
- Garnish our creamy bow tie pasta recipe with reserved parsley and Parmesan cheese. (image 8)
Farfalle is an Italian pasta that is shaped in a bow tie. It means butterfly in Italian and was first made in the 16th century in Northern Italy. It is commonly used with cream and tomato based sauces and as a base for salads. Larger variations are called farfalloni and smaller variations are called farfalline.
The only way you'll know is to taste it. Pasta should be cooked al dente which means firm to the bite. Remove some with a fork, and let it cool by blowing on it. Bite into it with your front teeth. The center should have a thin white ring in the middle, and it should have a springy bounce.
Pasta water acts as a binder and thickener and makes the sauce extra creamy.
Our creamy bow tie pasta recipe tastes best when made fresh. If all the ingredients are prepped ahead of time, this dish comes together in only 20 minutes. Leftovers will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days in an airtight container.
Reheat leftovers on the stovetop over medium low heat while whisking until heated through. Don't bring to a boil, or the creamy sauce will separate. Don't reheat in the microwave, or the sauce will separate.
Unfortunately, our creamy bow tie pasta doesn't freeze well because of the dairy used in the sauce. When dairy freezes, the cream breaks apart and looks curdled.
To round our your meal, we suggest serving a good crusty bread like our rosemary bread. If you feel more like having a crunchy salad, try our bell pepper salad. If you are looking for a colorful side dish, try our roasted grape tomatoes.
If you're looking for other pasta recipes, you'll want to try our recipes for our pear, gouda, and chicken sausage rigatoni, Panera mac and cheese, Panera broccoli mac and cheese, Chick-fil-A mac and cheese, American goulash, Caprese pesto pasta salad, and alfredo basil sauce.
- Sauce too thick or too thin? Thin with pasta water or thicken with Parmesan cheese.
- Use the pasta water to help bind the creamy sauce to the bow ties and to thin the sauce.
- Reheat any leftovers of the creamy bow tie sauce on the stovetop over medium low heat while whisking. Watch carefully so the sauce doesn't separate.
Other Delicious Pasta Dishes
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Creamy Bow Tie Pasta
- 12 ounces bow tie pasta, 5 cups dried
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ⅓ cup spring onion, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon garlic cloves, minced
- 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 ½ cups heavy whipping cream
- ½ cup mascarpone cheese
- ½ teaspoon ground mustard
- 1 cup ham, cut into ¼ inch strips
- 1 cup peas, frozen or fresh
- 4 teaspoons lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped (reserve 1 tablespoon for garnish)
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
- Cook the bow ties in a large pot of lightly salted boiling water until al dente. Reserve ½ cup of pasta water, then drain. Place the pasta back in the large pot and toss with 2 tablespoons reserved water.
- Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium high heat, then saute the spring onion for 3 minutes. Add the garlic and saute one minute, until fragrant.
- Sprinkle the flour on the veggies, whisking constantly, and cook for one minute to get rid of the raw flour taste. Gradually add the heavy cream while whisking until smooth. Continue to whisk in the mascarpone, Parmesan, and the dry mustard to get a smooth sauce. Add ¼ cup of the reserved water.
- Add the ham and peas, and heat through, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in the lemon zest, lemon juice, parsley, nutmeg, salt, and pepper.
- Pour sauce over the pasta and mix well to coat. Adjust the seasonings to taste.
- Garnish with reserved parsley and grated Parmesan cheese. Serve warm.
- Make the sauce with pasta water to help bind the sauce to the bow ties and to thin the sauce.
- Thin the sauce with pasta water or thicken with Parmesan cheese to get the texture right.
- When reheating leftovers, watch carefully so sauce doesn't separate. Stir the sauce in a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium low heat.
- The sauce makes 4 ½ cups.
Serving sizes and nutritional information are only an estimate and may vary from your results.