Easy Tomato, Olive, and Spinach Pasta with Shrimp

The bright, summery flavors in this quick and easy pasta dish will have everyone saying “WOW!”, while keeping the kitchen stress level totally “RELAXED!”

Get your summer on with this incredibly bright, fresh, restaurant-quality pasta. Juicy grape tomatoes, earthy fresh spinach, and sweet shrimp are tossed in a sauce that can only be described as an explosion of flavors and topped off with grated tangy, nutty parmesan cheese. This dish will satisfy the hungriest appetite without the weightiness of traditional pasta dishes. It all but sings a song of joy for summer’s garden ingredients.

Image of ingredients

You may think that I’m getting a little carried away with my praises for a meal prepared in less than a half-hour, but I’m not! It’s seriously that good. The sauce is a magnificent flavor meld of garlic, crushed red pepper, chopped kalamata olives, and finely chopped red onion in chicken (or vegetable) broth. What makes it so good is that no one ingredient or flavor stands out. All anyone knows is that it tastes fabulous!

The Prep

image of prepped ingredients
Mise en place: Prep veggies, shrimp, spices and broth

The veggies require some prep, but nothing overly taxing. The red onion and kalamata olives need chopping, the garlic needs to be thinly sliced, and the basil leaves torn. Slice the grape tomatoes in halves.

Short-cuts & Hacks

There are several prep time-savers that I recommend. I buy pre-washed and trimmed spinach or baby spinach; for me, the saved time is worth the few additional pennies. However, even “trimmed” spinach needs a once-over to remove any stems.

Frozen shrimp and prepped shrimp in bowl
Thaw shrimp as per package instructions. Remove tails and any remaining peel.

I also recommend using frozen, cooked, deveined shrimp. I buy it when it’s on sale and always have a bag in my freezer. Thaw frozen cooked shrimp quickly thawed under running water or according to package instructions. If necessary, peel and remove the tails. If you don’t care for shrimp, cooked chicken or even ham can be substituted.

Parmesan cheese  grated in a food processor
Grating cheese takes second using a food processor.

If you use fresh parmesan, as I do, it will need to be grated. A food processor grates the cheese in seconds. Using store-bought grated parm won’t have the same flavor, but it does eliminate the entire task. It’s a trade-off.

The “secret ingredient”

Pot of pasta and measuring cup with pasta water
Cook pasta as directed, save a 1/2 cup of the water before draining.

Cook the pasta according to the package instructions. I like tube pasta for this recipe (rigatoni, ziti, or penne). Before you drain the cooked pasta, scoop out a half cup of the pasta water and set it aside for a few minutes. The salty, starchy water will not only adds flavor but helps glue the pasta and sauce together. If there is a “secret ingredient” in this recipe, the pasta water is it.

Making magic in a skillet

Skillet with oil, garlic and seasoning
Sauté the garlic and seasonings in a large skillet

Heat the oil in a large skillet and when it is glistening hot, add the seasonings and garlic. Stir it around for about 30 seconds, being careful not to burn the garlic. (Golden garlic is good, blackened garlic, not so much!)

To the skillet,, add tomatoes, onion, olives and broth to skillet

Add the tomatoes, onions, broth, and olives and cook for 6 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Skillet with pasta and spinach added
The pasta and pasta water are added to the skillet. Simmer and add spinach and basil.

When the tomatoes blister and break down, add the cooked pasta and pasta water. After simmering for a few minutes, stir in the spinach and basil.

Shrimp in skillet with pasta mixture
Add the cooked shrimp to the skillet

Add the cooked shrimp and cook a few minutes longer.

image of skillet with pasta mixture

Sprinkle with the grated Parmesan cheese. Serve with Garlic Bread Extraordinaire!

Pasta with grated cheese added
Add the grated parmesan cheese. Serve immediately

Easy Tomato, Olive, and Spinach Pasta with Shrimp

Recipe by Jane BruceCourse: MainCuisine: AmericanDifficulty: Easy


Total time



Enjoy a summery pasta featuring fresh tomatoes, spinach, and basil in a flavor-packed sauce featuring Kalamata olives, red onions, and a kick of red pepper flakes. Thawed, pre-cooked frozen, shrimp is an easy way to add a sweet and tender protein


  • 8 ounces (1/2lb) rigatoni, penne or ziti pasta

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper

  • 3 large garlic clove, thinly sliced

  • ½ red onion, finely chopped

  • 2 cups grape tomatoes, halved

  • ½ cup chicken or vegetable broth

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 15 Kalamata olives, pitted and coarsely chopped

  • 5 – 8 oz. fresh spinach (half a package)

  • ¼ cup torn basil leaves

  • 1 lb. cooked shrimp, thawed

  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated


  • Prep: Slice garlic. Chop red onion. Halve tomatoes. Chop pitted olives. Rinse and trim spinach, if needed. Tear basil leaves. Grate parmesan cheese, if needed.
  • Cook pasta as per package directions for desired doneness. Drain pasta, saving a ½ cup of pasta water. Peel shrimp and remove tails, if needed.
  • Add one tablespoon oil to a large skillet and heat over medium heat. Swirl pan to coat and red pepper, salt, pepper and garlic; sauté 30 seconds, be careful not to burn the garlic. Add the tomatoes, onions, broth, and olives; cook 6 minutes stirring occasionally. Add the cooked pasta and the 1/2 cup of pasta water to pan; simmer 2 minutes.
  • Stir in spinach, basil and cooked shrimp; cook 2 minutes. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.


  • Grape tomatoes: substitute cherry tomatoes or larger tomatoes that have been seeded and diced.
  • Spinach: baby spinach can be used
  • Shrimp: Substitute diced cooked chicken or ham.
  • Zhoosh it: Add any of the following diced jalapeno, sliced mushrooms, diced eggplant, bacon crumbles

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