Not Quite CopyCat Penne Rustica from Macaroni Grill

by Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom on October 31, 2012

So I’ve had my eye on this recipe that I’d seen on Pinterest for while for CopyCat Penne Rustica from Macaroni Grill. Except I don’t like pimentos. Well, I don’t mind them, but I don’t love them either. When seeing the recipe, I’d thought that it would be delicious if I made it with red bell peppers instead of the pimentos. So I waited for a red bell pepper sale. I’d seen $1 sales…but I was hoping for a $.75 sale.

And then a $.33 sale happened at Sprouts.

I was shocked by this price and knew this was my one and only chance to make this…if I was going to get it even close to $5. (It’s a bit over because I used both shrimp and chicken. Use chicken only and it’d probably hit the mark.)

And I’ve given this the label of “not-quite” because I didn’t use the rosemary, pancetta, or pimentos. :)

Shrimp sauteeing with the onions…before the diced chicken gets added in.

Shrimp and chicken swimming in the marsala-cream sauce…flavors mingling.

Pasta and red peppers, waiting to be tossed with the saucy chicken-shrimp mixture.

Hot and fresh outta the oven with ooey gooey cheese melted to perfection.

The marsala in the homemade white sauce really gave a rich flavor to this pasta dish. Next time I make it, I’ll probably just use chicken and save a few dollars on the shrimp!

This is definitely one you want to include on an upcoming meal plan!

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Not-Quite CopyCat Penne Rustica from Macaroni Grill

Adapted from Girl Who Ate Everything

Yield – 8 servings

Preparation Time – 30 minutes

Cooking Time – 20 minutes


Gratinata Sauce

  • 1 teaspoon butter ($.03)
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic ($.10)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard ($.02)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dill ($.05)
  • 1/2 cup marsala cooking wine ($.75)
  • 4 cups heavy cream ($1)


  • 9 raw shrimp, peeled and deveined ($2)
  • 2 small grilled chicken breasts, diced ($2)
  • 1/4 cup butter ($.40)
  • 1 small white onion, chopped ($.20)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 12-16 ounces penne pasta, cooked ($.50)
  • 2 red bell peppers, chopped ($.66)
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese ($.75)
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese ($1)
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika ($.02)



  • To make the gratinata sauce, melt the butter in a medium saucepan or skillet with a rim. Whisk in the chopped garlic, mustard and dill. Pour in the marsala cooking wine and then whisk in the cream. Let simmer over low heat and let reduce by half.
  • Cook the pasta and chicken if needed.
  • In another saucepan or skillet, saute the shrimp and chicken with the butter and onion. Add a little salt and pepper. Once the gratinata sauce has reduced, add it into the skillet or saucepan with the chicken and shrimp. Let simmer for 5-10 minutes, allowing flavors to mingle.
  • Preheat oven to 400.
  • In a 9×13 inch baking dish, toss the cooked penne pasta and red bell peppers. Pour in the saucyt chicken-shrimp mixture and toss gently. Top with the Parmesan cheese and mozzarella cheese.
  • Bake in the preheated for 20 minutes, or until bubbling and cheese has melted and begun to brown.
  • Sprinkle paprika on top before serving.
  • Serve Not-Quite CopyCat Penne Rustica.

Cost $9.48 (8 servings!)

See more $5 Dinners Popular Recipes here

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

DONNA November 2, 2012 at 2:08 pm



Sarah Skeeters November 21, 2012 at 2:31 pm

I was so excited to try this recipe, but the cream curdled while it simmered and the sauce was ruined! I was so disappointed…what did I do wrong???


Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom November 21, 2012 at 5:43 pm

Sarah, So sorry…making white sauces with cream is tricky business. I imagine that it came to a boil to fast. It really should only just simmer and “melt” into the sauce and then reduce down with the sauce. Sorry it happened!


Sarah Skeeters November 21, 2012 at 2:33 pm

I was so excited to try this recipe, but the cream curdled while it simmered and the sauce was ruined. I was so disappointed…what did I do wrong??


Carrie June 6, 2014 at 3:52 am

I am a huge follower and love that I can go to your website and find something to make that won’t break the bank, even though I am cooking for 6-8 on any given night. But, I don’t know any store I can get 4 cups of cream for a dollar, please tell me!


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