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Posts Tagged ‘Pasta’

Shrimp Scampi

In Seafood, Uncategorized on June 1, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Perfect for a quick summer meal.

There are so many different versions of shrimp scampi out there , yet every restaurant seems to turn out the same oil-laden mess. Why is that? I set out to find the definitive scampi recipe. I looked at Italian chefs and seafood chefs. I looked at food blogs, company websites, and restaurant “cheater” sites. Know what I found? The basic recipe is the same, and the differences come from the individual cook.

Some people aren’t great with cooking shrimp. Others are afraid of high heat, so too much fat gets absorbed. Some people use breadcrumbs. Yuck. The one thing that most of the recipes have in common is that it is cooked on the stove and finished in the oven. This requires an oven-safe saute pan, which I do not have. So what did I do? Oh, come on. You know me. I made my own recipe!

I took the basic elements of shrimp scampi and reformulated it so it can be cooked entirely on the stovetop. It turns out a lot less oily, and the cornstarch does wonderful things to the garlic. It does have a nice sauce though, so serve it with a nice crusty bread. Ready?

Shrimp Scampi


2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons white wine

1/2 pound shrimp, peeled, deveined

1 stick butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons parsley

juice of 1 lemon

salt and pepper to taste

grated parmesan for topping


This is so quick, if you blink you’ll miss it. Ready? Here we go –

Combine the cornstarch, salt and pepper, and wine in a large bowl. Add the shrimp, toss to coat, and let sit for about 10 minutes.

In a large pan over mediem-high heat, melt the butter with the olive oil.

Press the garlic into the pan, add the parsley, and cook a minute or two or until the garlic is almost golden.

Add the lemon juice and the shrimp mixture, and cook until the shrimp are no longer translucent.

Reduce heat to low and simmer for about five minutes. Top with the parm, serve over pasta. Done.

See how easy that was? And how awesome? Yeah.


Mom’s Chunky Spaghetti Sauce

In Pasta on March 10, 2010 at 4:33 pm

Please don't lick the screen!

Okay guys, this is it – the definitive spaghetti sauce recipe. The traditional recipe made by the women in my family since they came here from Naples in 1904. This is not marinara sauce, it’s spaghetti sauce. This is not Italian, it’s Italian-American. It is the best sauce ever. I sometimes eat it like soup. There’s no sugar in it, yet it doesn’t taste acidic. It’s chunky enough to stand up to a bulky pasta. It clings to the pasta instead of pooling on the plate. It is not greasy, not runny, not bland.

We use canned tomatoes instead of fresh for several reasons. The original reason being, of course, that fresh tomatoes were expensive to a poor immigrant in 1904, unless she grew them herself. If she was lucky enough to have a garden, she got loads of tomatoes for a month or two in the summer, which she quickly canned for use during the rest of the year. If she didn’t have a garden, canned tomatoes were available at the store, and were much cheaper than fresh. When you’re feeding a family of nine on the paycheck of a laborer, budget is a big concern.

The other reason is really just a back-up. My great-great-grandmother had no idea, but canned tomatoes actually have more lycopene than fresh ones. Something about the canning process, I think. And besides, the best sauce only comes from San Marzano tomatoes, and who has a steady supply of those? And if you did, would you really want to hand-chop a few dozen of them?

The recipe itself is quite simple. The secret lies in the simmering. Traditionally, you would get the sauce on the stove early in the morning and let it simmer all day until dinnertime – this way the flavors marry and blend and you end up with tomato perfection. If you are unable to do this, try to simmer at least an hour. If you don’t, you’ll lose out on a whole lotta richness and complexity.

Simmer all day, you say? You mean stand over the stove and stir all day? No. Here’s what you do (I learned this from my mom) – when you start the simmering process, place a big loaf of crusty bread on the counter next to the stove. Inform everyone in the house that the price of a dip is a stir. Within twenty minutes, the irresistible fragrance will be wafting from your kitchen, and you’ll have no shortage of assistants!

Mom’s Chunky Spaghetti Sauce


2 tablespoons olive oil

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 cup finely chopped onion

6 ounces tomato paste

28 ounces crushed tomatoes

28 ounces diced tomatoes

salt, pepper, basil, oregano, parsley to taste


In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Saute garlic and onion until tender.

Stir in tomato paste.

Stir in crushed and diced tomatoes.

Bring to a boil. Watch out – the sauce is too thick to boil properly – it will just pop and splatter. There will be clean up. But really, don’t wait for a rolling boil, because it just won’t happen.

Season to taste. Only use a bit of parsley – too much, and it will taste grassy. Easy on the oregano too, because it’s a very strong flavor. Go crazy with the basil, though, because we all know how basil and tomato are in love.

Reduce heat, and simmer (uncovered) until sauce has reduced by about 2 inches. This usually takes about 30 minutes.

If you really want to, you can stop here. For the full authentic flavor, cover and simmer up to 10 hours. Obviously, the longer you’re going to simmer, the lower your heat needs to be. Simmering for an hour needs heat closer to medium than low, while simmering all day uses very low heat.

If you’ve learned one thing here today, it should be this : SIMMER! Please do it, for as long as you can. You’ll notice the difference in taste, I promise. And your house will smell very, very good, too.

Shrimp and Spinach Toss

In Pasta, Seafood on February 5, 2010 at 5:46 pm


You know those days when you’re in the mood for something that feels decadent and naughty, but you really don’t feel like cooking? Me too. So you go out to a restaurant and order something expensive. So do I. But occasionally, these “me” days also coincide with “sitting in front of the tv  in sloppy sweats” days. Yeah. They won’t let you in to that restaurant looking like that. Nor should they.

It was one of those days that inspired this dish. I had some good shrimp, and some spinach I had to finish off, and I was feeling really lazy. In fact, I’m still feeling rather lazy, so this is going to be a short post. Fridays do this to me every time.

Shrimp and Spinach Toss


1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined

2 cups fresh spinach

2 cups ricotta cheese

1/2 pound fettucine

1 clove garlic

1 tablespoon olive oil

salt, pepper, basil to taste


Couldn’t be simpler – Cook your fettucine according to package directions.

While this is going on, saute the shrimp in the olive oil and garlic over medium heat until no longer translucent.

Throw in the spinach (but not too hard – the leaves will fly everywhere), cover, and let simmer over medium-low heat until spinach is wilted.

Stir in ricotta cheese, salt, pepper, and basil,  and remove from heat.

By now, your pasta should be done – drain it. Dump everything into the pasta pot, and toss to coat.

You’re done! Serve with a nice mixed greens salad if you want to be a little good. Otherwise, bring the pot to the couch with a fork, and chomp away!