Copycat Penne Rosa

Penne Pasta in a white bowl with red sauce, parmesan cheese, spinach, onion, and mushroom

Now that back to school is in full swing, I am reminiscing on my most recent school days at Illinois State University and my love for my favorite fast casual meal…Penne Rosa! I have a bunch of cousins, as well as my little brother looking at colleges right now, along with being a new alumni board member, that it’s been jogging my memories of my ol’ college days.

The hero of college: MY METABOLISM. I miss being able to just go all out on a bowl of whatever and still be my fit self. Pasta was always the name of the game for me in college. The go-to? Noodles and Company. Yep – there was one right by our campus and we’d skeddadle over there for a big bowl of pad thai, pesto, or my favorite, Penne Rosa.

Sometimes I still crave it, and I’ll go in. I feel like no one is quick to say they love Noodles & Company, yet every time I go, the line is out the door.

But with my metabolism now at a more appropriate level for a near-30 year old, I have taken things into my own hands to create a *very easy and low cal* take on an old favorite that mimics the same glory as my favorite Penne Rosa dish.

I love this recipe because it can be so versatile. There’s been many nights where I didn’t know what to make and I had all the ingredients for this dish. It captures simplicity, which still creating an awesome meal for any day of the week.

Here are a few tips I have before you go right into this recipe:
– Use your favorite vodka sauce – Mine is Trader Joe’s Vodka Sauce or Primal Kitchen’s Vodka Sauce!
– Add extra veggies or protein to mix it up!
– Use a different noodle – Penne is the go-to for this dish, but rotini or any other pasta that can hold onto sauce is best.
Penne Pasta in a white bowl with red sauce, parmesan cheese, spinach, onion, and mushroom

Copycat Penne Rosa

Yield: 4
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes

An easy copycat recipe for Noodles & Co.'s favorite, Penne Rosa!


  • 1 lb penne pasta
  • 10 oz baby bella mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 jar of vodka sauce (I use Trader Joe’s!) – you can also use 28 oz of crush tomatoes + 3-4 tbsp of heavy whipping cream, if you want to do this from scratch.
  • 3 cups baby spinach
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt, pepper, crushed red pepper flake (to taste)


  1. Get your pot of water on heat to get it boiling! You’ll do this to save time so that your pasta is ready when your vegetables are.
  2. Saute your mushrooms, onion, and garlic in olive oil. Season with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes. Make it as spicy as you want!
  3. Once your water is brought to a boil, cook your pasta until tender.
  4. Once pasta is about done, add your vodka sauce (or crush tomatoes + heavy whipping cream) to your onions and mushrooms. Let it simmer until bubbly.
  5. Add your spinach to your sauce, and then add your cooked pasta and combine.
  6. Serve pasta with fresh parmesan cheese or some amazing breaded chicken cutlets!

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