Tonight’s dish is Shrimp Penne with Cajun Cream Sauce (made from Greek yogurt), Tri-Color Veggies and Roasted Garlic.
As you can probably tell, one plate is a bit bigger than the other. That would be my boyfriend’s plate. I typically make a good amount of food for the both of us, split it about 60/40 and still end up giving him whatever’s left on my plate. He’s a hungry individual. This picture shows the contrast a bit more. Portion control is important!!
Anyway, earlier that day, we went to Panera for lunch. Now I know it is Panera Bread after all, but they give you SO much bread. I got the Chicken Soba Noodle bowl, and as much as I looove dipping bread in my soup, its not totally necessary when your soup has a million yummy soba noodles soaking up the broth anyway. It’s even less necessary when you order what my boyfriend does- Half sandwich, and a bread bowl of tomato soup. He essentially gets meat between bread, bread with soup in it (topped with bread croutons), and a side of bread. And as college students (grad school for me) we try to be resourceful! So we saved our sides of bread and re-purposed them into garlic bread later that night. It’s a wonderful idea if you don’t mind the looks you get when you’re walking out of Panera with two baguettes wrapped in napkins.
That was a bit off-topic, but its important to think of ways that we can re-purpose food and reduce food waste. But that topic (soapbox) is for another time…
Back to the pasta. This dish is super simple to make, but does require a few moving parts. I try my best to use as little cookware as possible, mostly for clean-up purposes, but this night I just was not having it. Don’t be fooled by the title, this pasta has cajun influence but isn’t really that hot at all. However, there are some “spicier” ingredients (crushed red pepper, cajun seasoning, etc) that should be done to taste. If you’re feelin’ extra spicy, don’t be afraid to be a bit heavy-handed with the red pepper. If you don’t like spice at all, go ahead and omit it completely. Or do what I do- add a little bit at a time and taste, taste, taste. Let your tongue be your guide.
My favorite part of this dish is the hidden sources of protein. Greek Yogurt is seeming to be added to just about everything nowadays, but I couldn’t be more pumped. Adding a couple spoonfuls into this sauce adds about 8 grams of protein. That’s about the same protein content as an entire glass of milk. Protein is extremely important for almost all body processes, and I don’t think people realize how easy it is to incorporate into our diets, without the need for powdery processed protein shakes. Other protein sources in this dish include the shrimp, feta cheese, vegetables and even the pasta. (Gluten is a protein, btw.) This comes out to a grand total of about 40 grams of protein. That’s a lot.
Ingredients: (btw- this picture only shows some of them, and my kitchen was messy. Sorry.)
- 1/2 to 1 lb Shrimp (can be fresh or frozen)
- 2 cups penne pasta (I use and recommend Whole Wheat)
- 3/4 cup pasta sauce (your preference. I used Barilla because it was on sale at Publix)
- 3 oz plain Greek yogurt (I use about half of one of those individual cups. Tip on what to do with the rest below)
- 1/2 cup feta cheese
- 1 cup bell peppers
- 1/2 cup asparagus
- 1 small onion
- 1 Small-Medium head of garlic (yes, the whole thing)
- Half of one lemon
- Olive Oil
- 2 tbsp Cajun seasoning
- Red pepper flakes
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Parsley for garnish
- Get a big pot of water boiling and add a large pinch of salt
- Chop bell peppers and asparagus into “matchsticks”
- Peel and devein shrimp if necessary
- Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Take about 3 cloves off the head of garlic and throw the rest of the head onto a pan in the oven to roast. Mince the three cloves.
- Cook pasta until al dente (roughly 9-11 minutes depending on the type)
- Over low heat, add the pasta sauce into a small saucepan. Mix the greek yogurt and cajun seasoning into the sauce according to taste. (I like my sauce pretty creamy so I add a good amount of greek yogurt)
- In a large pan over medium-high, heat some oil and add a pinch of minced garlic until fragrant. Then saute the peppers, onion, and asparagus, stirring frequently for 8-10 minutes. (You’ll want that roasted color- similar to fajita veggies)
- In a medium-sized pan over medium-high heat, add a generous amount of olive oil. Then, add the rest of the minced garlic and red pepper flakes. Stir and saute until fragrant. Next, add the shrimp and cook for no more than 5 minutes (Shrimp cooks extremely fast, but you do want it to have enough time to soap up that garlic-pepper oil) Add a big squeeze of lemon for acidity.
- Drain pasta and throw back into large pot. Add vegetables, cajun yogurt sauce, and feta cheese. Grab the roasted garlic head from out of the oven, slice off the root, peel away the skins and roughly chop the roasted cloves. Add those into the pot as well. Mix this all together until everything has a light coating of creamy sauce.
- Plate the pasta, and top with sauteed shrimp. Drizzle the dish with the rest of the oil from the shrimp pan and garnish with parsley.
Dessert Tip: Don’t let the rest of that plain greek yogurt go to waste. Mix in 1/4 tsp of vanilla extract and a tiny squeeze of honey. Fill a small bowl or ramekin with chopped fruit, top with yogurt mixture and a few mini chocolate chips. Trust me.
Armed with your new knowledge about protein (and about making the most out of your Panera experience) get to cooking! Let me know what you think in the comments!