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Whip up a delicious, authentic Italian dinner in less than 20 minutes with this 5-Ingredient Penne with Prosciutto Parmesan Cream Sauce! The easy pasta recipe is a family-friendly option for your busiest weeknights.

Overhead image of two bowls of penne with prosciutto parmesan cream sauce

It may sound indulgent, and it certainly tastes that way, but this creamy white sauce isn’t overly rich — thanks to just a touch of heavy cream. The Parmesan cream sauce is made without flour, and lightly coats each bite of penne pasta for the perfect Italian flavor in a fresh, simple meal.

What makes this Penne with Prosciutto Parmesan Cream Sauce so special?

  • It only requires 5 ingredients;
  • It comes together in less than 20 minutes from start to finish; and
  • It takes advantage of some of the finest, authentic Italian ingredients for maximum flavor with minimal effort!

Close overhead bowl of penne with prosciutto parmesan cream sauce and a fork

How do you make a Prosciutto Parmesan Cream Sauce for pasta?

Let’s start with the 5 basic ingredients: penne pasta, heavy cream, butter, prosciutto imported from Italy (Prosciutto di Parma PDO), and Parmigiano-Reggiano PDO cheese.

Ingredients for penne with prosciutto parmesan cream sauce

When using minimal ingredients, it’s important to choose the finest, highest quality options. That’s why I recommend using authentic, Italian-imported goods for the best result. There’s truly no substitute for Prosciutto di Parma PDO and Parmigiano-Reggiano PDO. Check the label to be sure that you’re purchasing genuine products from Italy. Just because they look Italian, doesn’t mean that they are Italian!

Parmigiano-Reggiano PDO is produced with local raw cow’s milk. It’s a cooked and un-pressed hard cheese, known as the “King of Cheeses.”

The minimum maturation period must be 12 months, and it gets its unique flavor from the intense bacterial activity of the indigenous microbial flora in the special local milk. Parmigiano-Reggiano PDO is only produced within a certain region in Italy, and first references to this hard cheese are dated back to 1200-1300. Today the Parmigiano-Reggiano PDO is still produced with the same ingredients, techniques and tradition of these years — and you can taste the authenticity!

For this recipe, you want to make sure that you’re freshly grating your cheese (don’t use a jar of the pre-grated stuff)!

ingredients for parmesan cream sauce for pasta

Now let’s chat about the Prosciutto di Parma PDO! This cured ham is 100% natural, made without any additives, such as nitrates, nitrites, preservatives, hormones or coloring agents. It can only be produced in the hills around Parma, where the air is dry with aromatic breezes from the Apennine Mountains. This region creates the perfect conditions for the natural curing of the hams, which are aged at least 12 months before receiving the official stamp of certification. Prosciutto di Parma PDO has a mild and delicate taste, with a fragrant aroma.

Here, you’ll need to slice the meat into thin strips before adding it to the Parmesan Cream Sauce.

Sliced prosciutto on a cutting board

Once your ingredients are prepped, begin by boiling the penne pasta according to package instructions.

Cooked penne pasta in a pot

While the pasta cooks, prepare the Prosciutto Parmesan Cream Sauce. First, melt the butter in a saucepan, add the prosciutto, and cook until the prosciutto is browned all over and slightly crispy.

Butter and crispy prosciutto in a saucepan

Add the heavy cream to the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until the sauce thickens (about 3-4 minutes).

Prosciutto Parmesan Cream Sauce for pasta in a saucepan with wooden spoon

Toss the sauce with the cooked penne, stir in the grated cheese, and serve immediately! I like to garnish the bowls with fresh herbs, but that’s certainly not necessary. I know that you’ll want to dig in right away! This truly is the perfect Parmesan Cream Sauce for pasta.

It doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming to taste amazing — especially when you’re working with the finest Italian ingredients. That’s amore!

Bowl of penne with prosciutto cream sauce garnished with fresh basil and parsley

Discover more about the never ending journey through the unique and authentic Italian flavors!

Looking for other easy, authentic Italian recipes? Try these favorites:

5-Ingredient Penne with Prosciutto Parmesan Cream Sauce

5 from 2 votes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Total: 15 minutes
Calories 530 kcal
Whip up a delicious, authentic Italian dinner in less than 20 minutes with this 5-Ingredient Penne with Prosciutto Parmesan Cream Sauce!

Ingredients
  

  • ¼ lb. sliced Prosciutto di Parma PDO, sliced into narrow strips
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 8 ounces penne pasta
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano PDO cheese
  • Garnish: fresh chopped basil and parsley

Instructions

  • Cook penne pasta according to package instructions. Drain.

While the pasta cooks, prepare the sauce:

  • Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add prosciutto and cook for about 3-4 minutes, stirring a couple of times. The prosciutto should be browned all over and slightly crispy.
  • Add the heavy cream to the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until thickened and reduced by at least one-third (about 3-4 more minutes).
  • Toss the cream sauce with the cooked penne, stir in grated cheese, and serve immediately. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley or basil and extra cheese, if desired.

Notes

This recipe yields 2 very large servings, or 4 smaller servings. If you're cooking for a big family, I suggest doubling the recipe.
Recipe adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan

Nutrition

Serving: 1/4 of the recipeCalories: 530kcalCarbohydrates: 43gProtein: 13gFat: 33gSaturated Fat: 17gCholesterol: 86mgSodium: 377mgPotassium: 204mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 750IUCalcium: 108mgIron: 0.9mg
Keyword: Parmesan Cream Sauce, Parmesan Cream Sauce for Pasta, Prosciutto Recipe
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Italian
Author: Blair Lonergan

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Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    i LOVE PASTA! I think it I try hard enough I can make this into just one huge serving! I’ll be in a food coma afterwards but it’ll totally be worth it haha

    1. Thank you for the guidance on what to do with some prosciutto that we had in the fridge from the past weekend.
      Your recipe was the foundation of what I prepared. Only difference was that I added fresh spinach and a hint of white sauce with chicken stock with the heavy cream. Also at the end I finished it with a little chopped tomato.
      During this Covid time, my wife and I enjoyed this for lunch. Great recipe. Great combination of ingredients!

      1. I’m so happy that it inspired your delicious lunch, John! Thanks for taking the time to let me know. Have a great weekend!

  2. 5 stars
    a bit concerned with heavy cream. like the idea of adding spinach(or maybe even peas just to make a bit more healthy countering cream just a thought plus i like adding veggies to almost anything sounds great though