An Easy, Inexpensive Mid-Week Meal: Shrimp Penne Pasta

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This shrimp penne pasta recipe is beyond easy to make and it’s inexpensive, making it a perfect weeknight meal. Shrimp, capers, and red onion are tossed with penne pasta, then plated on top of healthy arugula. It’s a recipe you’ll come back to over and over again.

Italian-Style Shrimp Penne Pasta Dinner

When I was a kid, shrimp were luxury items. We had them on special occasions like New Year’s Eve or when watching the Grey Cup. Since then, the price of shrimp has come down A LOT. They’re still not as cheap as chips (that reminds me, they taste super-darned good alongside chips!) but if paired with inexpensive items, like canned tomatoes, they make for a reasonably priced quick and easy mid-week dinner. So much so that they’ve become a staple in my freezer; There’s always a bag of Medium-Sized Peeled and Deveined Shrimp chilling out next to the chicken breasts, waiting for when I’ve had a crazy day and want dinner ready lickety split.

This recipe certainly does the trick for mid-week: Quick, easy, tasty and adaptable to different preferences in the family and to the ingredients you have on hand.

This is a very basic recipe that you can adapt to your own preferences. The base is the garlicky, lightly spiced tomato sauce with shrimp, which works wonderfully on a bed of penne and arugula (spinach works here too). The capers and red onion are sprinkled on at the table meaning that individuals can choose to omit the capers and/or the onion if they’re not fans. You could alternately or additionally provide some chopped parsley mixed with grated lemon rind or some chopped red peppers, chopped sundried tomatoes (the kind packed in oil), spring onions, chives, etc.

Oh, speaking of shrimp and New Year’s Eve: Check out this delicious and somewhat elegant recipe for butter-poached shrimp cocktail!

Butter-Poached Shrimp Cocktail with Roasted Red Pepper Cocktail Sauce

Now, let’s make this shrimp penne pasta dinner!



Italian-Style Shrimp Penne Pasta Dinner

  • Author: Christine Pittman
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 12 minutes
  • Total Time: 22 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings


Cooked shrimp are combined with capers, red onion and a zesty tomato sauce, then tossed with penne pasta and arugula for a delicious, quick, inexpensive weeknight dinner.


  • 11lb box of penne pasta (you’ll have some leftover pasta but no worries. Check out the recipe for Browned Butter Penne Frittata given in my February Meal Plan under Thursday February 9th)
  • 3/4 lb medium-large frozen shrimp, peeled and deveined, with or without the tail (You want 68 shrimp per person so look for 3640 count shrimp here, meaning there are 3640 in a pound.)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp (or more to your own internal heat-sensor) crushed red pepper flaces
  • 128 ounce can diced tomatoes (petite diced are nice here but aren’t essential) with their juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp coarse black pepper
  • 8 handfuls of arugula, 4-6 ounces
  • 4 tbsp drained capers
  • 4 tbsp minced red onion


  1. Boil penne according to package directions. If the pasta is ready before the sauce, drain it, toss it with a few drops of olive oil and then return it to it’s pot. Cover to keep warm.
  2. Place the frozen shrimp in a large bowl. Put the bowl in the sink and fill it with water. Allow water to continue to trickle from the tap and over the shrimp until they’re fully defrosted (about 10 minutes).
  3. Meanwhile, peel and mince the garlic. In a large skillet stir the garlic together with the oil and red pepper flakes. Warm it on the stove over low heat until very fragrant (about 5 minutes). Don’t let the garlic brown.
  4. Increase the heat to medium-high. When well-heated add the shrimp. Cook stirring occasionally until all of the shrimp have turned pink (5-6 minutes). Add the tomatoes, salt and pepper. Stir. Cook just until the tomatoes are warmed through.
  5. Pile 1/4 of the arugula on to each dinner plate. Top with some penne and then with some of the shrimp and tomato sauce. Sprinkle each serving with 1 tbsp each of capers and red onion.

This recipe is scheduled for February 7th in my February Meal Plan. Head over there to see what else I have in store for this month.

7 Responses to “An Easy, Inexpensive Mid-Week Meal: Shrimp Penne Pasta”

  1. Belindar P. — February 12, 2012 @ 7:44 am (#)

    When I was a kid, I could freely enjoy shrimps but now, I couldn’t anymore because I’m allergic to it. How should I manage the shrimp allergy because I really want to eat shrimp dish again?

    Thanks for this recipe!


    • Christine — February 15, 2012 @ 10:14 am (#)

      You could try chunks of cod or chicken (cook until no longer pink inside) Either would work well in this recipe.

  2. Jill Mant~a SaucyCook — February 11, 2012 @ 2:36 pm (#)

    What a lovely dish. It will also be wonderful in the summer when fresh roma tomatoes abound, along with spinach and zucchini! I love the way you suggest serving toppings on the side and I am thinking fresh basil slivers and some black truffle oil….oh, the variations abound!! Congrats on your new daughter.

    • Christine — February 15, 2012 @ 10:13 am (#)

      I love the idea of basil leaves here. Not sure I’ve ever had truffle oil with shrimp. Will have to give it a try. Thanks for visiting!

  3. Kiran @ — February 6, 2012 @ 12:22 am (#)

    That looks delicious! What took me so long to discover your blog????? :)

  4. Paula — February 3, 2012 @ 4:08 pm (#)

    I can’t eat fish of any kind but my husband can and does! He would really enjoy this dish. Looks scrumptious!

    • Christine — February 4, 2012 @ 2:56 pm (#)

      Hmmm…I bet you could split the warmed garlic into two pans, do shrimp in one and chicken breast in the other, half a can of the diced tomatoes into each pan and done! Fish for him, non-fish for you. Worth a try anyhow :)

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