Penne Pasta with Shrimp and Chicken
Pantry Pasta by Dena T Bray©

I love planning and creating meals for my family. This endless set of tasks bring me great joy. Meals are usually in the back of my mind throughout the week. Still, there are times when I find myself hurried and not as prepared as I like to be. Monday night, for example,  I got so involved in researching a new project—setting up Pinterest boards for a client—that I lost track of time. When I looked up from my computer it was 6 o’clock. My husband and daughter would be home shortly, hungry, and I hadn’t been to the store that day nor had I considered what to prepare for dinner. After a moment of panic, creativity took hold.

A quick scan of the pantry and fridge revealed dried pasta, prepared sauce, frozen chicken and shrimp, fresh garlic and a few fresh herbs. This Penne Pasta with Shrimp and Chicken was born in the 30 minutes I had to get dinner on the table. After defrosting the meats, I cut the chicken into pieces roughly the same size as the shrimp. While the pasta water heated to a boil, I added olive oil to a pan large enough to hold the whole meal. The meats cooked up quickly in the hot oil. Adding a bit of fresh garlic to the mix, I poured the pasta sauce directly into the pan and heated everything through while I cooked the pasta. After draining it, I added the pasta to the pan and let everything simmer together until my family arrived home. The fresh herbs were rinsed, chopped, tossed with some oil and vinegar and placed in salad bowls. Al and Isabel were greeted by heavenly aromas filling our house when they walked in the door.  The dinner was a huge hit.  Beautiful and delicious, it gave the impression I had slaved over a hot stove all day. (Let’s keep the truth between us, okay?)

What are some of your favorite last-minute meals?

Have a great Valentine’s Day. May it be filled with love.

I look forward to seeing you in my kitchen, gathering flavors, soon.


Note: Please watch for my next post during the first week of March.

Penne Pasta Up close by Dena T Bray© .jpg


Yield: 4 Servings


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced finely
  • ½ pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into thin strips
  • 12 large shrimp, peeled, deveined and rinsed
  • 1 24-ounce jar prepared tomato sauce*
  • 1 lb. whole wheat penne pasta*
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup fresh herbs, rinsed and lightly chopped (for garnish)
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional garnish)


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet that is wide enough to hold all the ingredients, including the cooked pasta.
  2. Fill a large pasta pot with water and bring to a boil.
  3. Add the garlic to the hot oil. Stir. Add the chicken strips and shrimp. Stir in to coat with the olive oil and garlic mixture. Continue stirring until the meat is cooked through. The chicken should be golden, the shrimp pink on the outside and opaque, when done. This should take about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the prepared tomato sauce to the pan, stir it with the cooked chicken and shrimp. Bring to a simmer.
  5. Add the pasta to the boiling water, stir, bring the water to a boil again, then lower the heat to a simmer. Cook until the pasta is al dente. Drain.
  6. Add the pasta to the prepared sauce and meats. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Stir to coat completely. Allow the entire dish to simmer 10 to 15 minutes before serving.
  7. Divide the pasta between serving bowls. Sprinkle with fresh herbs and Parmesan cheese, if you like.
  8. Enjoy.


  1. Use your favorite prepared pasta sauce. My preferred brand is Muir organic.
  2. Substitute egg or gluten free pasta, if you like.
  3. Serve with a Market Morning Salad and Parmesan Muffins or Savory Parmesan Scones.

Dena Testa Bray has been writing Gathering Flavors, a culinary blog, since 2011. She is a trained chef & ran a home based cooking school. Dena now designs websites, focusing on work with creative people. You can see her website work at She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and family.