penne pasta

Penne Pasta with Shrimp or Grilled Chicken

This pasta dish is easy and a family favorite! Alter with different ingredients to completely change the dish! Use walnuts instead of pine nuts, add fresh spinach rather than the arugula – you get the idea!!




  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


  • 1 pound penne pasta
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, at room temperature
  • 4 cups baby arugula
  • 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained


  • You can use either shrimp or chicken for your protein. If using the shrimp, purchase uncooked and add during #4 before adding the pasta. Add as much or little as you want, I usually add ½ pound. Make sure they cook completely.
  • I use precooked chicken (leftovers or grilled separately) and add at the end of #4 (below).




  1. Begin by making the dressing in a small bowl whisking together the olive oil, lemon juice and zest, salt, and pepper until smooth. Set aside.
  2. Cook the pasta al dente according to the package directions. Drain and reserve 1 cup of the pasta water.
  3. Toast the pine nuts by arranging in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated 350° oven for about 6 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.
  4. In a high-sided skillet, melt the butter completely over medium heat. Simmer until foamy; watching carefully. Continue to cook until the butter has a nutty aroma and turns a light caramel color; about 3 – 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the pasta, dressing, arugula, tomatoes, Parmesan, pine nuts, and capers. Toss until coated, adding the reserved pasta water, 1 tablespoon at a time to loosen the sauce, if needed. Transfer to a large bowl and serve.


Recipe Credit:  This dish is a recreation from a Giada De Laurentiis original recipe. 

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