Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Easy Shrimp Pasta

There are two predominant routes I tend to travel when it comes to pasta... both laden with enticements that make decision making difficult when perusing a menu that offers both as options and, sadly, no plane tickets. One road has white wine, garlic, tomatoes, lemon and parsley lining the way. The other promotes bacon, tomatoes, olives, and onions to lure the senses. And selecting which way to go is never easy.

I’m always torn between that sumptuous and subtle (or not so subtle) garlic-white wine-based pasta common to Shrimp Scampi, especially when dotted with fresh tomatoes and brightened with a good squeeze of lemon, and the pastas that lean more toward the Puttanesca or All'Amatriciana side, with olives and bacon (capers and guanciale for purists) offering an alluring salty, robust flavor that is especially appealing with a little kick of chili flakes thrown in for some heat.

I suppose that’s why eating in is so often the best path… allowing you to forge your own way to combine your favorite profiles into one great dish... especially when the flavors are so compatible.

Here, large shrimp are tossed with just a bit of olive oil and seasoned with a touch of kosher salt, black pepper and a hint of garlic powder before getting popped in a hot oven to roast for 5 minutes... quick and easy. While you can easily drop your shrimp into your sauce to cook through, I think a quick roast adds an appealing bite to the shrimp... and allows you to incorporate a bit more direct flavor than a simmered option offers.

While your shrimp do their thing and you put your pasta on to cook, the rest of the fixings get simmered in a skillet over the stove... onion, turkey bacon, carrot, diced tomatoes, crushed red pepper flakes, a touch of white wine, a bit of pasta water and a little seasoning. The carrots add a little sweetness without shouting "carrot" and throwing you too far off the Scampi-Puttanesca-All'Amatriciana path. And the turkey bacon paves a little healthier route. In no time at all, everything is ready to toss together and serve... just take a peek at the recipe detail for timing on what gets sautéed first, etc.

A little fresh Italian parsley sprinkled over top and you’re on your way to Happyville (the destination you arrive at when forging your own way... in life and food). Unless, of course, you have a good stretch of time and a plane ticket to Italy… then scrap it all and eat out (you'll get to Happyville via this route as well).

Easy Shrimp Pasta 
Serves 2 to 4

This will heartily serve two with generous leftovers; or serve four for a light meal, assuming you get at least 12 shrimp in your count. While specific amounts are noted, I always suggest you taste your sauce before completing your dish so you can adjust the heat, salt or other seasonings to your own liking... flavor path.

3/4 to 1 pound Spaghetti pasta* (water reserved)

For shrimp:
1 pound large shrimp (10 to 15 count), peeled and deveined
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon garlic powder
2  tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

For sauce:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ large onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced
2-4 strips turkey bacon, diced
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 15-ounce can diced, unsalted, fire-roasted tomatoes
2 2.5-ounce cans sliced black olives, drained
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3/4 cup pasta water
¼ cup white wine (something dry that you’d drink)

Fresh Italian parsley, chopped (to serve)

* I used a gluten-free variety, by Bonnaturae that’s available at Whole Foods, made with soy, rice and potato... a very good and authentic option if electing gluten-free.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Prepare pasta, according to package directions (al dente). Drain and set aside.

Arrange shrimp on a large baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with seasonings. Toss gently to coat shrimp. Place in oven to roast for 5 to 6 minutes (don’t overcook!). They should look plump, slightly curled and pink-tinged.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions, turkey bacon and carrots to pan. Sauté until onion is translucent, turkey bacon and carrots are cooked through; about 10 minutes. While onion mixture is cooking, add seasonings (Italian parsley through black pepper)... I do this about halfway through this sauté to get a little heat on the seasonings before the wet ingredients are added. Then add tomatoes, olives, crushed red chili flakes, pasta water, and white wine. Season sauce with additional salt and pepper, to taste. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Then add in pasta and roasted shrimp, toss lightly to combine and heat through. Serve with a little sprinkle of chopped Italian parsley over top.

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