Four Cheese Pasta Cheesecake Factory Copycat

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I think we all have those restaurants that we occassionally get a huge hankering to order takeout from that just can't be satisfied until we place that order. The Cheesecake Factory is definitely one of those restaurants for me, I think mainly because when I want something extra delicious I know that any meal from there will be ultra satisfying. Which is why I just knew I had to try and perfect a copycat version of one of my faves.

Enter this four cheese pasta!

I know a lot of people whose favorite menu item is the four cheese pasta. With penne pasta tossed in a garlicky tomato sauce seemingly infused with both creamy and sharp cheeses, then topped with the creamiest ricotta dollop (and loads of fresh basil), this dish hits the spot. Thankfully, this copycat version tastes nearly IDENTICAL (I made sure to get the takeout version so I could do a side-by-side taste test), is light, so quick, and so easy!

Crushed tomato sauce

What ingredients will you need for the sauce?

Starting off with the sauce, which is definitely the most important part of this recipe, you'll just need a few ingredients to make the tomato base, then the four cheeses to incorporate into that. For the tomato base you'll need:

  • olive oil - small amount to cook the garlic in
  • garlic - CF sauce is pretty garlicky, so this recipe uses 4 minced cloves
  • crushed tomatoes - crushed tomatoes are key to use instead of sauce, as the CF sauce has a slightly thicker consistency
  • sugar - to slightly reduce the tomato acidity
  • kosher salt - always S&P!
  • black pepper
  • basil (dried) - CF sauce was very herby, so these 2 dried herbs make sure to do the trick and not get lost once the cheese is added
  • oregano (dried)

Each ingredient is light, but this sauce tastes spot on in comparison to the CF original!

Four cheese sauce ingredients

What are the instructions for the tomato base?

Once you have your ingredients handy, making this tomato base could not be easier. All you need to do is:

  1. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
  3. Add crushed tomatoes, sugar, salt and pepper, and dried basil and oregano.
  4. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 10-12 minutes over medium low heat.

You'll instantly be so excited by how herby and delicious your kitchen smells, and the best part is, while the sauce is simmering you can cook the pasta! One important thing to note, for any pasta that will finish cooking for 1-2 minutes in the sauce, I make sure to drain it when it is just al dente to ensure it won't be overcooked. In terms of the shape, I used penne to match the CF, but use whatever shape you like!

Four cheese tomato and cheese pasta sauce

Where do the four cheeses come into play?

Once the tomato base for the sauce is simmering, and the pasta is boiling, it's time to mix together the four cheeses that will be incorporated into the tomato base. For this you will need:

  • ricotta - part of the ricotta goes into this mixture, and if you don't love ricotta, I PROMISE it's not overpowering! The other half gets mixed with a little milk, which I again PROMISE is essential to creating the creamiest dollop on top
  • eggs - our mom taught us this trick; nothing lightens up ricotta like eggs
  • shredded mozzarella - key to achieving the cheesiness
  • grated parmesan - adds sharpness and makes the cheese flavor stand out
  • grated romano - I think the romano is the key to what makes the CF four cheese sauce taste unique. Its flavor packs a punch, so you don't need much!

Another thing I love about this recipe is the different cheese consistencies. Once added to the tomato base, the ricotta adds creaminess, the mozzarella that classic cheesiness, and the paremsan and romano that texture in every bite!

Pasta in four cheese sauce

How to finish the four cheese sauce

Once you have your cheese ingredients at the ready to finish the sauce all you'll need to do is:

  1. In a medium bowl, add 1/3 cup ricotta, eggs, mozzarella, parmesan, and romano, stirring until combined. Season with pepper.
  2. In a separate small bowl, whisk remaining 1/4 cup ricotta with the milk and set aside. This will be used for the dollop on top, an integral part of the OG CF version!
  3. Once the sauce has thickened slightly, add in the cheese mixture from the medium bowl, stirring until it is fully incorporated and the cheese is melted.

When I was making this, I was pretty darn close to drooling at this point. As long as you keep stirring over medium low heat, the cheese begins to melt into the tomato base, and perfectly thicken up the sauce. One interesting thing about the CF original is you can't necessarily "see" the four cheeses, as I believe they're incorporated into the sauce like they are in this version!

Four cheese pasta cheesecake factory copycat

How this copycat comes together!

Now I don't know about you, but when I'm making an at-home copycat version of a recipe, I really think I need to trick my brain a little further by making it look just like the original version as well, and this recipe does just that, all by:

  1. Draining the pasta and adding it to the sauce, stirring until the pasta is coated.
  2. Dividing the pasta between bowls and topping each with a dollop of the reserved whipped ricotta.
  3. Sprinkling the entire dish with the finely chopped basil.
  4. Extra points for adding in a few whole basil leaves like the original does!

Now that's a copycat if I do say so!

Copycat four cheese pasta

Why make this copycat four cheese pasta from the Cheesecake Factory at home?

I had so much fun developing this recipe (and not just because it gave me an excuse to order the original as takeout one night!) but because it just goes to show how delicious and satisfying a homemade version can be. Here's why you need to make this:

  1. It tastes SO similar to the original restaurant version. Take my word for it or do an at home comparision like I did for fun!
  2. It's really easy, maybe even easier than hopping in your car to go to the restaurant.
  3. It's really quick, like 30 minutes quick, what could be better than that!
  4. It's full of whole and fresh ingredients, and is a hearty and satisfying meal that will be perfect for when you're craving something extra delicious.

Four cheese pasta with riccota

Frequently asked questions

Can I use a different type of tomato other than crushed tomatoes?

When trying the original version, I noticed that the tomato sauce was not entirely smooth, and did have some texture to it from the tomatoes, which made me think they were crushed. That being said, if you only have sauce, it shouldn't change the flavor much!

Do I have to add the eggs to the cheese mixture?

I know it sounds a little strange, but the eggs help thicken the sauce and break up the texture of the ricotta. If you don't want to use eggs, I would recommend adding a splash of milk to the larger cheese mixture as well to lighten it up.

What if I don't like ricotta or can't find romano, can I substitute other cheeses?

I wouldn't recommend skipping the ricotta all together. I promise you can't notice it once it's incorporated, and feel free to skip the dollop! If you don't have mozzarella, fontina would work great too. If you can't find romano or don't have any on hand, feel free to double up on the parm, or perhaps grab some shredded provolone.

Cheesecake factory four cheese pasta

One night soon when you want something incredible for dinner (and are potentially craving takeout too) whip up this four cheese pasta that is a fun copycat version of a classic favorite.

Four Cheese Pasta Cheesecake Factory Copycat

This four cheese pasta Cheesecake Factory copycat is so cheesy and delicious, ready in 30 minutes, and tastes exactly like a lightened up version of the saucy and satisfying takeout original.

Author:
Jackie

Ingredients

Servings: 4

  • 4 tsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • kosher salt
  • black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp basil, dried
  • 1 tsp oregano, dried
  • 12 ounces pasta (I used penne)
  • 1/3 cup + 1/4 cup ricotta, divided
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella, shredded
  • 3/8 cup parmesan, grated
  • 1/8 cup romano, grated
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 2 tbsp basil, fresh, finely chopped

Instructions

  1. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Add crushed tomatoes, sugar, salt and pepper, and dried basil and oregano. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 10-12 minutes over medium low heat, stirring occasionally.
  2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions, making sure to drain when just al dente.
  3. In a medium bowl, add 1/3 cup ricotta, eggs, mozzarella, parmesan, and romano, stirring until combined. Season with pepper. In a separate small bowl, whisk remaining 1/4 cup ricotta with the milk and set aside to dollop on at the end.
  4. Once the sauce has thickened slightly, add in the cheese mixture from the medium bowl, stirring until it is fully incorporated and the cheese is melted.
  5. Drain pasta and add to sauce, stirring until the pasta is coated. Divide pasta between bowls and top with reserved whipped ricotta and fresh basil.

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

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