Spicy Fusilli Pasta with Tomato + Cream (Gluten Free, Vegetarian, Dairy Free friendly)

5 from 2 votes
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It’s almost Valentine’s Day, so I’m bringing you the first of two dinner ideas that are sure to impress even the pickiest eaters. This Spicy Fusilli Pasta with Tomato + Cream is luxurious and hearty, tasting like it took hours to make, but coming together in just 30 minutes.

If you’ve had Penne alla vodka and love it as much as most people do, you will love this recipe.  It’s lighter and easier, made with ingredients you probably already have on hand, and more nutritious too.  The cream sauce uses full fat coconut milk, which you’d never guess, as you cannot taste any hint of coconut.  It simply tastes creamy and savory and incredibly delicious.

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fusilli pasta

“What else can i use?”

  • I use Jovial Foods or Trader Joes brown rice fusilli pasta here, but you can use any pasta you prefer.  Rigatoni or penne work beautifully.
  • I limit my dairy, so I use full fat coconut milk, but heavy cream is traditional and easily used here.
  • If you don’t care for spice, or are serving children who don’t like spicy food, simply omit the red pepper flakes
  • You can skip the Parmesan to make this totally dairy free, but I love it and find it adds great flavor and creaminess to the sauce.

This pasta tastes and feels like a total splurge, and is special enough for a celebration or dinner party but easy enough to make for a weeknight dinner.  I just love when that happens.

5 from 2 votes

Spicy Fusilli Pasta with Tomato + Cream

The creamiest, dreamiest pasta, with a luxurious tomato and cream sauce and just the right amount of spice.
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Servings: 4


  • Dutch oven or stockpot


  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 1 cup Parmesan, freshly grated, omit if you're dairy-free
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2/3 cup full fat coconut milk or heavy cream
  • 6 ounces tomato paste
  • 1 lb fusilli pasta , I use brown rice pasta
  • 1 cup reserved pasta water, from cooked pasta pot
  • Fresh basil, for serving, optional


  • Bring a large lidded stockpot of salted water to a boil.
  • Adjacent to your stockpot, heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat.
  • Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring, for about five minutes.
  • Add the tomato paste and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until the tomato paste starts to brown. This will take about 5 minutes.
  • Add a splash of water to deglaze the pan and scrape up the browned bits.
  • Add in the coconut milk or heavy cream, stirring constantly, until a smooth sauce forms.
  • Turn off the heat, remove with from heat, and cover with a lid.
  • Add fusilli to pot of boiling salted water and cook two minutes less than packaged directions require. You want the pasta to be a bit less than al dente.
  • Scoop out one cup of the pasta water and reserve.
  • Uncover your pan of sauce and put back on low heat.
  • Using a slotted spoon, add fusilli to the pan of sauce.
  • Add 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water to the sauce and half of the Parmesan, stirring to combine and melt the cheese.
  • When the water is absorbed, stream in the remaining 1/2 of the pasta water as needed.
  • Stir to incorporate into the creamy sauce.
  • Serve pasta in shallow bowls with fresh basil, if desired.

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Author: Kat Ashmore
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: American, Italian
Servings: 4
Keyword: pasta
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Recipe Rating


    1. Hi Sasha,
      I often make this with coconut milk and I don’t find it to be overwhelming. There is certainly a hint of it, but the tomato is the predominant flavor!
      Let me know if you give it a try!

  1. 5 stars
    Absolutely delicious. Great weekday meal after days work and school. Quick to throw together and fills up little bellies