Bow-Tie Pasta

published May 28, 2022
Bow-Tie Pasta Recipe

Bow-tie pasta is one of the most comforting shapes — especially when it is smothered in a creamy tomato sauce.


Prep5 minutes

Cook20 minutes

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Bowtie pasta in a pink, creamy sauce, with shredded basil and tomatoes tossed it.
Credit: Laura Rege

Often overlooked, bow-tie pasta (also known as farfalle) is one of the most comforting shapes — especially when it is smothered in creamy tomato sauce. This is a recipe that’s fast to put together, making it the perfect weeknight crowd-pleaser.

How to Make Bow-Tie Pasta Creamy

There are several ways to make pasta creamy — heavy cream, half-and-half, cream cheese, Parmesan, pasta water, and sour cream are some of our favorite final touches to create super-silky, irresistible pasta sauces. Here, pasta water emulsifies the sauce, creating a slightly creamy texture, but half-and-half, Parmesan, and sour cream are the real contributors of creaminess. Half-and-half is a nice balance between milk and whole cream, creating a thick sauce that isn’t too cloying. For an extra-creamy and rich pasta, swap out the half-and-half with heavy cream. Parmesan cheese contributes a slight creaminess in addition to its iconic irresistible nutty and salty cheese flavor — there is a reason why we love spoonfuls of this grated cheese over pretty much any pasta dish. Triple up on creamy with a nice dollop of sour cream, which adds a little tang to balance out the sauce. 

Credit: Laura Rege

How Long Should Bow-Tie Pasta Boil?

Boil the pasta until al dente, which is usually 2 minutes less than package instructions or about 11 minutes. To check if the pasta is al dente, remove a piece from the water and either cut or bite in half. Visually the pasta should be faintly white in the center, meaning it is just hydrated enough to have a nice bite, but not overdone. If it is chalky white, the pasta should boil a touch longer. The texture should be just tender yet still chewy.  

How to Serve Bow-Tie Pasta

Place a bowl of bow tie pasta in the center of the table along with a crusty baguette or garlic bread and a salad. An ​​Italian chopped salad or Caesar salad are great sides to pair with this creamy bow-tie pasta.

Bow-Tie Pasta Recipe

Bow-tie pasta is one of the most comforting shapes — especially when it is smothered in a creamy tomato sauce.

Prep time 5 minutes

Cook time 20 minutes

Serves 4

Nutritional Info


  • 4 cloves


  • 1/2 ounce

    Parmesan cheese (1/4 cup firmly packed freshly grated or 1/4 cup store-bought grated), plus more for serving

  • 1 small bunch

    fresh basil

  • 12 ounces

    dried bow-tie or farfalle pasta

  • 2 tablespoons

    olive oil

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    red pepper flakes, plus more for serving

  • 1 pint

    grape or small cherry tomatoes

  • 3 tablespoons

    tomato paste

  • 1 cup


  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more for the pasta water and seasoning

  • 1/4 cup

    sour cream


  1. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, finely chop 4 cloves garlic. Finely grate 1/2 ounce Parmesan cheese (about 1/4 packed cup), or measure out 1/3 cup store-bought grated. Pick fresh basil leaves and thinly slice until you have 1/4 cup.

  2. Add 12 ounces dried bow tie pasta to the boiling water and cook according to package instructions until al dente, about 11 minutes. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large high-sided skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the garlic and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add 1 pint grape or small cherry tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes burst, about 9 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat if the pasta is not ready yet.

  3. When the pasta is ready, reserve 1 cup of the pasta water. Drain the pasta.

  4. Add 3 tablespoons tomato paste to the skillet and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomato paste darkens in color, about 2 minutes. Add 1 cup half-and-half, 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water, Parmesan, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Add the pasta and toss until coated and warmed through, about 2 minutes more. If the sauce is too thick, stir in more of the reserved pasta water 1 tablespoon at a time.

  5. Remove the skillet from the heat. Add 1/4 cup sour cream and stir to combine. Taste and season with more kosher salt as needed. Serve topped generously with the basil, more Parmesan, and more red pepper flakes, if desired.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.