Cool and creamy? You’ve never had pasta like this!
I’ll be honest. I was pretty skeptical the first time I made pasta with Greek yogurt but no cheese.
After all, cheese and pasta are like peanut butter and jelly – they’re meant to be together.
But apparently even the best matches can be replaced once in a while with outstanding alternatives. This dish is so creamy, without the need for any cheese.
Another surprising quality of this pasta dish is that it’s a healthy lunch or dinner option. Yes, I just said “pasta” and “healthy” in the same sentence.
As a dietitian, I feel like Italian food generally has a bad reputation for being too high in carbs, too fatty, or just too high in calories overall.
While there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a creamy bowl of fettuccine alfredo with a glass of wine from time to time, it just feels wrong to me have to say that pasta should only be a “sometimes” food.
That’s where this dish comes in.
Made with whole wheat penne for extra fiber, it’s also packed with fresh veggies that provide important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It’s been my mission to start incorporating more vegetables in dishes with a base of carbohydrates. I also make a baked penne that has Greek influences, with zucchini and feta.
For protein, we’re taking a break from the usual chicken and using shrimp instead.
Now, I have nothing against chicken. It’s high in protein, low in saturated fat, and so versatile. However, eating it over and over again can get boring.
Shrimp is also low in saturated fat while being a good source of protein. And before you say it’s too expensive, take a walk through your frozen food aisle.
Unless you live near the beach, any shrimp you buy at the grocery store was frozen at some point. The ones that you can find at the seafood counter have simply been thawed for you.
While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, depending on how long it’s been thawing for, it likely needs to be used within a day or two to prevent flavor loss and spoilage.
Instead, I usually opt for a bag of peeled and deveined frozen raw shrimp.
Not only are they often cheaper, but they have a longer shelf-life and can still be thawed quickly when needed, like for an irresistibly juicy dinner of lemon garlic shrimp, a spicy skillet Cajun shrimp, or this light and creamy pasta salad.
Now that we have the main ingredients covered, let’s go back to that Greek yogurt sauce, as it’s the reason why this recipe has become a regular in my meal prep rotation.
Plain Greek yogurt is like sour cream’s zestier, more versatile cousin. High in protein and low in saturated fat, it’s also a staple ingredient in healthy kitchens.
For the creamiest texture, go with a full-fat yogurt. If you want to cut back on calories and fat a tad, I like to use 1 or 2% fat yogurt. These options are still nice and creamy.
In addition to the yogurt, we’re adding in lemon zest and juice, parsley, garlic, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. What results is a tangy, savory sauce that coats each whole wheat noodle, and brightens up the entire dish.
If you’ve been hesitant to try preparing your meals ahead of time because you think it might take too much time, or you’re afraid you’d end up just eating grain bowls every day, let this recipe prove otherwise. It comes together in 25 minutes flat, and brings a delicious balance of vegetables, whole grain pasta, and seafood, in a tantalizingly delicious sauce.
As much as I enjoyed this dish when it was warm and freshly made, it was even better the next day, after the flavors had time to meld together in the refrigerator overnight.
After serving yourself a bowl, I highly recommend portioning out the leftovers into individually-sized containers, for you to grab and take to work for lunches for the next couple of days. Your wallet – and your taste buds – will thank you!Print
Made with whole wheat penne, fresh vegetables, and Greek yogurt, this creamy pasta with shrimp is an easy, healthy lunch.
- 1 lemon
- 1 pound whole wheat penne pasta
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound medium-size raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, cut in half
- ¾ cup chopped red bell pepper (about 1 medium)
- ¾ cup chopped cucumber (about ½ medium)
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- Zest and juice the lemon, and remove any seeds.
- Heat a large pot of water over high heat. Once boiling, add penne and cook for 11-15 minutes, or until al dente. Drain and transfer to a large mixing bowl.
- When pasta is almost done cooking, place oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once oil is hot, add garlic and cook 30 seconds, or until fragrant.
- Add shrimp to the skillet and season with the salt. Toss to coat. Cook 1-2 minutes, or until bottom of shrimp is pink and no longer opaque. Flip and cook another 1-2 minutes, or until fully cooked through.
- Transfer shrimp and any juices from the pan into the mixing bowl with the pasta. Add lemon zest and juice, parsley, and yogurt. Stir well to combine.
- Add bell pepper, cucumber, olives, and red pepper flakes. Stir to combine. Serve immediately, or chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours to enjoy cold.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
- Category: Seafood, Pasta
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Mediterranean
Keywords: shrimp, Greek yogurt, lemon, whole wheat pasta
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Chop Vegetables and Measure Ingredients
Zest the lemon with your zester or microplane. Cut it in half and squeeze the juice, and remove and discard any seeds.
Wash and dice the red bell pepper and cucumber, and chop the parsley.
If your olives aren’t already pitted, get out your olive pitter and get to work! Cut the olives in half.
Remove the tails from the shrimp if this has not already done. If you bought whole shrimp, check out our guide to peeling and deveining for prep tips.
Measure out all of the remaining ingredients.
Any type of short pasta works well in this recipe, such as shells or bow ties. You can also use gluten-free pasta if needed. For any of these variations, follow the cooking instructions listed on the package.
Step 2 – Boil Pasta
Place a large pot of water over high heat.
Once it’s boiling, add the pasta and cook for 11-15 minutes, or until al dente.
Drain in a colander, and place in a large mixing bowl.
You can also cook whole wheat pasta in the pressure cooker. It’s easy with our tutorial!
Step 3 – Cook Seafood
When the pasta is almost done cooking, place the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
Once the oil is hot, add the garlic and cook 30 seconds or until fragrant, stirring occasionally. Don’t let the garlic brown or burn, as this will add a bitter flavor to the dish.
Add the shrimp and salt, leaving a few inches between each for more even cooking.
Cook for 1-2 minutes, or until the bottoms are pink and no longer opaque. Flip, and cook for another 1-2 minutes, or until fully cooked through. Shrimp don’t take very long to cook, so keep an eye on them!
Remove the pan from the heat.
Step 4 – Toss It All Together
Pour the shrimp and all accumulated juices into the mixing bowl with the pasta.
Add the lemon zest and juice, parsley, and yogurt. Stir well to fully coat the pasta with yogurt and lemon juice.
Next, add the chopped bell pepper and cucumber, halved olives, and red pepper flakes. Stir to combine.
Feeling Hot or Cold?
When eaten immediately, this dish is warm with a silky-smooth sauce.
However, it’s also an excellent option for making ahead of time and enjoying chilled. After sitting in the fridge for awhile, the flavors are stronger and the sauce is thicker, clinging onto each noodle.
Can’t decide which you’d prefer? Why not have both? Enjoy it hot for dinner, and pack chilled leftovers for lunch the rest of the week. Talk about a win for meal prep!
If you’re looking for more shrimp recipes to work into your meal prep rotation, try one of these Foodal favorites next:
Let us know how much you love this creamy pasta recipe by dropping a comment below, and rating it before you go!
Photos by Kelli McGrane, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on March 10, 2013. Last updated: November 13, 2022 at 14:07 pm. With additional writing and editing by Allison Sidhu.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
The written contents of this article have been reviewed and verified by a registered dietitian for informational purposes only. This article should not be construed as personalized or professional medical advice. Foodal and Ask the Experts, LLC assume no liability for the use or misuse of the material presented above. Always consult with a medical professional before changing your diet, or using supplements or manufactured or natural medications.
About Kelli McGrane, MS, RD
Kelli McGrane is a Denver-based registered dietitian with a lifelong love of food. She holds undergraduate and master’s degrees in nutrition science from Boston University. As a registered dietitian, she believes in the importance of food to nourish not only your body, but your soul as well. Nutrition is very personal, and you won’t find any food rules here, other than to simply enjoy what you eat.