Creamy One-Pot Penne Primavera with Shrimp


Just as its name suggests, you only need one pot to make this satisfying pasta dish featuring fresh spinach, red bell pepper and broccoli, along with a generous portion of shrimp. To make the light, creamy sauce, residual pasta water is cleverly combined with Parmesan cheese.

Active Time:
20 mins
Total Time:
30 mins

Here's how we made over this recipe to be healthy and diabetes-friendly:

1. We packed this dish with vegetables while cutting down on the amount of pasta used. Not only does this keep the portion size hearty, but it cuts back on the amount of carbs per serving. That means you'll get more in the way of nutrition, but not at the cost of significantly impacting your blood sugar.

2. We used the leftover cooking water from the pasta as a base for the sauce. The slightly starchy water combines with Parmesan cheese, creating an emulsification, for a creamy, silky sauce without adding calories or saturated fat. It's also quick and easy—making the sauce in the same pot as the pasta means no extra pans to clean up!

3. We opted for whole-wheat pasta, which has more good-for-you fiber than regular pasta made with refined flour. Fiber helps slow down digestion, which can help prevent blood sugar spikes after meals. And whole-wheat pasta is delicious, earthy and nutty—pairing well with the lively mix of veggies and shrimp in this recipe.

Tips From the EatingWell Test Kitchen

I want to make this recipe, but I don't have a high-sided skillet. What other kind of pan can I use?

We love problem-solving! If you don't have a high-sided skillet, you can use a large pot.

I love pasta, but I can't have gluten; can I use gluten-free pasta?

Unfortunately we can't say that this recipe will work when using gluten-free pasta instead of wheat-based pasta. Since gluten-free pastas are made with varying ingredients, with different levels of starch, there's no hard-and-fast rule for using the cooking water as a thickener. However, experimenting is fun, so if you try it and are successful, please leave a comment below with the type of pasta you used.

Shrimp is tasty, but can I use a different protein in this recipe?

You may not always be in the mood for shrimp, we get it. You can definitely play around with other proteins for this dish, like diced chicken breast. Before you start Step 1, heat some extra-virgin olive oil in the pan over medium heat and brown the chicken. Remove it from the pan, then proceed with Step 1. Add the chicken back to the pan when you add the spinach so it can finish cooking. You can also try this same technique with cubed pork loin, turkey breast, tofu or tempeh. Any of these changes will also change the nutritional profile of this dish, so just keep that in mind.

I have a bunch of vegetables that I need to use up; can I swap them for other veggies in this dish?

How resourceful! Yes, most vegetables would work well with this dish. Add heartier vegetables, such as carrots and cauliflower, when you add the salt and pepper. More delicate vegetables, like asparagus, snap peas and green beans, should be added with the shrimp. If you have leftover cooked vegetables in your refrigerator, you could definitely use them here—just stir the vegetables in during the last few minutes of cooking to reheat.

Can I use regular spinach instead of baby spinach? Or can I use a different leafy green?

Baby spinach is smaller in size than fully grown, so chop mature spinach into bite-size pieces before you add it to your pan. As for other greens, most will make a good substitute. Tender greens (arugula, baby greens and watercress) should be added with the cooked shrimp, while heartier ones such as kale, mustard and chard can be tossed in when the broccoli and peppers are added.

Having diabetes doesn't mean you have to give up all of your favorite foods. You just need the know-how (and easy cooking tips) to make better choices. In Make Over My Recipe, a fun cooking show geared toward beginner cooks, Mila Clarke takes classics like mac and cheese, meatloaf, brownies and more comfort foods and uses simple tricks to make them healthier—but just as delicious as ever.


  • 8 ounces whole-wheat penne pasta

  • 5 cloves garlic, sliced

  • 4 cups water

  • 2 cups broccoli florets

  • 1 small red bell pepper, diced

  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

  • ¼ teaspoon ground pepper

  • cup grated Parmesan cheese

  • 12 ounces shrimp, shelled, deveined and cut into halves or thirds

  • 4 cups baby spinach

  • 1 ½ cups cherry tomatoes, halved


  1. Combine pasta, garlic and water in a large, high-sided skillet. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce heat to maintain a gentle boil and cook, stirring frequently, for 8 minutes. Add broccoli, bell pepper, salt and pepper; cook, stirring often, until the vegetables and pasta are tender, about 5 minutes more. Reduce heat to low and add Parmesan a few tablespoons at a time, tossing the pasta between each addition until well coated.

  2. Stir in shrimp and spinach; cook, tossing constantly, until the spinach is wilted and the shrimp is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in tomatoes. Serve immediately.

    Creamy One-Pot Penne Primavera with Shrimp
    Ali Redmond

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

373 Calories
6g Fat
52g Carbs
32g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 4
Calories 373
% Daily Value *
Total Carbohydrate 52g 19%
Dietary Fiber 9g 32%
Total Sugars 4g
Protein 32g 64%
Total Fat 6g 8%
Saturated Fat 2g 10%
Cholesterol 148mg 49%
Vitamin A 6104IU 122%
Sodium 642mg 28%
Potassium 778mg 17%

Nutrition information is calculated by a registered dietitian using an ingredient database but should be considered an estimate.

* Daily Values (DVs) are the recommended amounts of nutrients to consume each day. Percent Daily Value (%DV) found on nutrition labels tells you how much a serving of a particular food or recipe contributes to each of those total recommended amounts. Per the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the daily value is based on a standard 2,000 calorie diet. Depending on your calorie needs or if you have a health condition, you may need more or less of particular nutrients. (For example, it’s recommended that people following a heart-healthy diet eat less sodium on a daily basis compared to those following a standard diet.)

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a special diet for medical reasons, be sure to consult with your primary care provider or a registered dietitian to better understand your personal nutrition needs.

Related Articles