You’d never guess that this creamy pasta sauce is made with cottage cheese! It’s a healthy tomato basil vodka sauce recipe that pairs perfectly with rigatoni or penne. This recipe is easy to make in 30 minutes or less. Cook the sauce on the stovetop, then blend with cottage cheese in a blender until velvety smooth and creamy.

white plate with creamy tomato sauce rigatoni topped with basil leaves and parmesan cheese, with a fork

Cottage cheese is having a comeback, and as a Registered Dietitian, I am on board!

It’s a protein-packed food you can enjoy in many ways (such as my lasagna with cottage cheese and ricotta, savory cottage cheese breakfast bowl or whipped cottage cheese toast).

Adding cottage cheese to pasta sauce adds lots of nutrition in addition to making the pasta sauce super creamy. You’ll never know that this tomato basil vodka sauce has cottage cheese instead of cream!

Similar to my red pasta sauce with Greek yogurt, this recipe is rich, velvety smooth, and tastes amazing with rigatoni or penne pasta.

Because it’s made with cottage cheese, each serving of the sauce alone has 10 grams of high quality protein.

If you love my simple marinara sauce, my creamy rosé wine tomato sauce, my cauliflower alfredo sauce, or my creamy sun-dried tomato pasta sauce, you’re going to adore this healthy cottage cheese pasta sauce.

It’s easy to make and takes 30 minutes or less.

This recipe is vegetarian, nut free, and soy free.

The pasta sauce is gluten free and can be enjoyed with gluten free pasta. It was inspired by and modified from my favorite vodka sauce recipe from Serious Eats.

cottage cheese pasta sauce ingredients measured out on a grey background

Ingredients in cottage cheese pasta sauce

Everything you need to make this recipe, below:

  • Canned tomatoes: Canned tomatoes are the base of this sauce. I’ve tested this recipe with both canned diced tomatoes and canned whole peeled tomatoes. They both work well.
  • Tomato paste: A whole can of tomato paste adds concentrated tomato flavor to this sauce.
  • Onion: Use white onion or yellow onion for their mild flavor.
  • Garlic: Fresh garlic helps add a depth of flavor to this sauce.
  • Basil: Tomato + basil are a classic flavor pairing. Sweet fresh basil helps round out the acidity of the tomatoes in the sauce.
  • Cottage cheese: Instead of heavy cream, cottage cheese make this pasta sauce creamy and rich. I recommend using 4% milkfat cottage cheese for a richer, more decadent sauce. It’s a smart nutrition swap: 1 cup of heavy cream has nearly 4 times the calories, 9 times more saturated fat, and nearly 4 times less protein as 1 cup of cottage cheese. Read more about the nutrition benefits cottage cheese, below.
  • Parmesan cheese: You’ll melt shredded parmesan cheese into the sauce after it’s been blended. Pre-shredded or freshly shredded both work.
  • Vodka: While you could omit the vodka, a small amount really enhances all the flavors in this sauce. Add it at the end of cooking so the alcohol burns off just enough.
  • Olive oil: You’ll cook the onion, garlic, and tomatoes in heart-healthy olive oil.
  • Red pepper flakes: Just 1/4 teaspoon brings a small amount of pleasant heat to this recipe.
  • Pasta: A short, tubular shape is best for this thick and creamy sauce. I love it with rigatoni!
  • Salt

For more healthy pasta sauce recipes, head over to this popular post.

Kitchen tools needed

You’ll start by cooking the sauce in a saute pan. You will also need a blender – a high power blender that can handle hot ingredients is best.

Additionally, measuring cups, spoons, a good knife, and a cutting board are needed.

How to make blended cottage cheese pasta sauce

tomato basil sauce being cooked in a stainless steel saute pan
1. Cook diced onions and garlic in olive oil with salt and red pepper flakes. Then add the canned tomatoes, tomato paste, and basil.
Cooked tomatoes and onions in a blender
2. Add the cooked vegetables to a blender.
Cottage cheese pasta sauce in a blender before being blended
3. Add cottage cheese to the blender.
tomato basil cottage cheese pasta sauce blended in a blender
4. Blend for 1-2 minutes until the sauce is velvety smooth and creamy without lumps.
creamy cottage cheese pasta sauce in a saute pan
5. Wipe the saute pan clean and add the sauce back. On low-medium heat, add the parmesan cheese until melted, and vodka.
rigatoni vodka pasta in a saute pan with a wooden mixing spoon
6. Add cooked rigatoni pasta directly to the sauce and stir to combine.

Serve garnished with chopped fresh basil and shredded parmesan cheese.

Storage

Enjoy this pasta sauce right away while it is still hot.

If you have leftover pasta with sauce, store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days.

Reheat individual portions in the microwave for 1-2 minutes, or until warmed through.

Serving suggestions

I love to serve a decadent pasta dish with a light side salad or roasted vegetables. Try this recipe paired with:

white plate with creamy tomato sauce rigatoni topped with basil leaves and parmesan cheese

Cottage cheese nutrition benefits

Cottage cheese is well known for it’s high protein content.

One half cup of 4% cottage cheese provides 14 grams of protein. This same serving provides additional nutrients:

  • 80 mg calcium (6% of your daily needs)
  • 0.71 mcg vitamin B12 (30% of your daily needs)
  • 0.186 mg riboflavin (14% of your daily needs)
  • 10.17 mcg selenium (18% of your daily needs)
  • 151.42 mg phosphorus (12% of your daily needs)

Cottage cheese and other dairy products are a smart addition to a plant-based diet.

Cottage cheese is an excellent source of protein and vitamin B12 – nutrients that may be more difficult to get enough of on a plant-based diet.

Tip: Cottage cheese is high in sodium – one half cup has 458.78 mg (20% of your daily needs). To avoid eating an excess of sodium, pair with low sodium foods or no sodium foods, like fresh vegetables and fruits.

Let me know if you love this post by leaving a comment or star rating below, and check out Instagram and Pinterest for more healthy lifestyle inspiration. Thanks for stopping by!

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white plate with creamy tomato sauce rigatoni topped with basil leaves and parmesan cheese, with a fork

Creamy Cottage Cheese Vodka Pasta Sauce

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 1 review
  • Author: Alex Aldeborgh, RD
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: serves 4
  • Category: main dish
  • Method: stovetop, blender
  • Cuisine: American Italian
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Description

You’d never guess that this creamy pasta sauce is made with cottage cheese! It’s a healthy tomato basil vodka sauce recipe that pairs perfectly with rigatoni or penne. This recipe is easy to make in 30 minutes or less. Cook the sauce on the stovetop, then blend with cottage cheese in a blender until velvety smooth and creamy.


Ingredients

Scale

Creamy cottage cheese pasta sauce

  • 23 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cups white or yellow onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 6 oz can or tube tomato paste
  • 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes or whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 cup cottage cheese, preferably 4% full fat
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup vodka

Rigatoni with cottage cheese pasta sauce

  • 1 pound rigatoni pasta
  • 1 heaping tbsp salt, for the pasta cooking water
  • 1/4 cup basil, chopped 
  • 1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese 


Instructions

  1. Heat olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat on the stovetop. Add diced onion, minced garlic, salt, and red pepper flakes. Cook for 2-3 minutes until onion has softened, stirring occasionally.
  2. Begin heating 4-5 quarts of water with salt in a large pot on the stovetop to cook the pasta in.
  3. Add the tomato paste, canned tomatoes, and basil. Stir to combine everything and cook the tomato mixture for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly.
    tomato basil sauce being cooked in a stainless steel saute pan
  4. Add the contents of the cooked tomato mixture to a blender along with the cottage cheese.
    Cottage cheese pasta sauce in a blender before being blended
  5. Blend on on high for 1-2 minutes, until the sauce is velvety smooth and creamy with no lumps.
    tomato basil cottage cheese pasta sauce blended in a blender
  6. Begin cooking the rigatoni pasta according to package instructions until it is al dente.
  7. Clean out the saute pan and put it back on the stove over low-medium heat.
  8. Add the sauce back to the saute pan and add the parmesan cheese.
  9. Let the cheese melt into the sauce, stirring occasionally, then add the vodka. Simmer for about 2 minutes to let some of the alcohol burn off.
    creamy cottage cheese pasta sauce in a saute pan
  10. Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and add it directly to the pan with the sauce.
  11. Use a mixing spoon to mix the pasta into the sauce, so all the noodles are well coated in sauce.
    rigatoni vodka pasta in a saute pan with a wooden mixing spoon
  12. Portion onto plates or bowls for serving, and garnish each plate with fresh basil and shredded parmesan cheese. 

Notes

Storage

Enjoy this pasta sauce right away while it is still hot. If you have leftover pasta with sauce, store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days.

Reheat individual portions in the microwave for 1-2 minutes, or until warmed through.