You Can't Resist This


In college, my roommate Kate and I lusted after Olive Garden. Living in Iowa, gourmet pasta wasn’t much of a thing. Gourmet corn, beef, and soy? Yes, definitely yes. But in Iowa City, IA, Olive Garden was the fanciest our college budgets could afford.

On several occasions, Kate’s mom would come and visit us, and she would take me, Kate, and our other good friend Colleen to Olive Garden, where no expenses were spared: Prosecco, appetizers, desserts, and unlimited bowls of pasta. (Literally- they had an all-you-can-eat option back then-do they still have that?) After those nights, we wouldn’t eat for a while. Actually, we would immediately go and lay on the floor without moving while watching the Notebook. Twice. In a row.

Today, I don’t eat pasta often- I can’t since Paleo doesn’t incorporate grains. That’s not to say that I don’t occasionally indulge, but I’ve noticed that grains make me feel sick more than anything else these days. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t miss curling up with a big bowl of pasta from time to time; pasta has evolved into a sort of comfort food for me.

Since I definitely cannot tolerate whole grains, which I have found to be very common in those who have adapted to a primal lifestyle, when I do have pasta, I default to gluten-free pastas or white rice pastas.  For me, gluten doesn’t give me much of a problem, but grains definitely do. White rice is the best option (#teamwhiterice), so I prefer to make dishes with white rice pasta. (See my nonRamen recipe here.) I also will eat more starches when I am working out a lot, need an energy boost, and I relied heavily on them when I was training for my first half marathon.

For this recipe, I recreated one of my favorite pasta dishes. Although they don’t serve anything like this at Olive Garden, I like to think this was more so was inspired by my time traveling through Italy. Shrimp, to me, tastes great in just about anything, but I love how the spiciness of arugula and the tartness of lemon play against each other. The shallot is reminiscent of onion, but doesn't over powder the shrimp, like it can in many seafood dishes. Of course, the crushed red pepper can be left out if you don't like spiciness, although I really think that it adds a lovely flavor to the overall dish. Buon appetito!

arugula penne pasta with shrimp

Serves 3-4

  • 10 oz. frozen raw shrimp, tails and veins removed*
  • 8 oz. white-rice penne pasta
  • Juice from ½ lemon, plus additional lemon slices for garnish (optional)
  • 1 cup fresh arugula
  • 1 tsp. dried crushed red pepper
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 tbsp. organic, grass-fed butter (I like Kerrygold)
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp. minced shallot
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Cook penne pasta by boiling water and cooking until al dente.
  2. While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil and garlic in a pan on medium heat. Sauté minced garlic and shallot until fragrant and golden.
  3. Add butter, lemon juice, and crushed red pepper to pan. Heat until butter is melted.
  4. Once pasta is cooked, drain and rinse immediately with cold water. Set aside.
  5. Add shrimp to pan with spices, butter, and olive oil. Cook shrimp on medium heat until pink, about 3-4 minutes, being careful not to overcook.
  6. Turn off heat, then immediately add penne pasta and arugula and stir to incorporate. Cover pan with a lid, and let sit for 2-3 minutes, long enough for arugula to soften slightly.
  7. Add salt and pepper if desired, and garnish with lemon slices. Serve immediately.

*I think that uncooked shrimp is the best, because you have more opportunity to add flavor. Raw shrimp can be hard to find, so flash frozen is the second best.