Alternative Cooking: Penne Rosa

There is a Noodles & Co. right next to my store. After about nine months, I gave in and tried the Penne Rosa, highly recommended by my friends at Noodles. I’m not really a pasta person so up until then I was only ordering their Tomato Basil Bisque or their Caesar Salad, but I have to say, it was incredibly delicious!

I liked it so much that I made my own alternative version a couple days later. This one has less pasta, more veggies and more heat. All around, I’d say that’s better!


I sauteed a little bit of garlic and onions in a little EVOO and – get this – a splash of red wine. After the garlic starts to brown and the onions start to caramelize, I added a jar of spicy marinara sauce (easy!). You have to simmer this sauce on low or it gets a little…lava-like; bubbling and reminding you of the importance of a backsplash. I added lots of crushed red pepper to kick up the heat and then just a little bit of heavy whipping cream.

Usually greek yogurt is my go-to for adding creaminess to dishes but I wasn’t sure how the consistency would hold up with the acidity of the tomatoes. I’ll have to try it the next time I make this.

While the sauce was cooking I sauteed some shrimp in a little (very little!) bit of butter and garlic. Shrimp is my new favorite thing to incorporate into making quick dinners. It’s easy to just have a bag of frozen, peeled, tail-off, already-cooked shrimp. You saute for a couple minutes and you’re done!

I had 100% whole grain penne pasta cooking while I was making the sauce. Two handfuls of penne: 10 minutes to al dente. Drain, rinse and incorporate into the sauce. Finish by stirring in tons of chopped spinach and mushrooms. Top with (my favorite!) french feta cheese.

When my best friend’s sister, Steph and her husband, Adam, lived with my family, I learned that the secret to “fresh pasta” was to add raw veggies (like spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes, etc.) at the very end. It really enhances the slow-cooked sauce’s flavors and is a great alternative to pasta. More veggies and less pasta is always the way to go!

The sauce was so delicious, I think next time I’ll kick out the penne and serve it just on a bed of raw spinach and mushrooms!