Shrimp and Spaghetti Mediterranean

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Wednesdays are one of my two busiest days of the week now given our new school and activities schedule. As such, it has also been designated the official Pasta Night of the week. A wonderful dish that came together quickly was spaghetti tossed in good olive oil with tender sweet shrimp cooked in garlic and lemon juice, slightly wilted peppery arugula, sweet sun-dried tomatoes and for a salty bite some capers. For texture and an irresistible nutty bite, toasted pine nuts. If you really want to indulge, go ahead and add the red pepper flake-marinated feta cheese I made to go along with it. The dish was amazing -- wonderfully briny from the capers and lemon juice, balanced out with sweet bites of the shrimp and tomatoes, and fresh and hearty from the arugula and garlic. My kids adored this dish so much I'm making it again tonight since it's....Pasta Night!

I love it too because it's definitely fancy enough to entertain with as well. The dish comes together quickly and effortlessly, just perfect for a dinner party where you can actually enjoy the company and not be a slave to the kitchen. Serve some fabulous quadro di bufula cheese with spicy soppressata to start, then make this for the main course. Add a cold glass of white and some freshly baked crusty Italian bread for a perfect dinner the kids and adults will love. Have fun with dessert and serve a selection of gelato and a perfect casual dinner party is served.

This recipe serves 4 good portions, but can easily be doubled or tripled for a larger crowd.

Shrimp and Spaghetti Mediterranean
1 lb spaghetti (recommend No. 10 de cecco brand)
course sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
1 lb raw large-extra large shrimp -- peeled, deveined and tails removed for easy eating
1 lemon -- zest and juiced
4 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 good handfuls of arugula (about 1 1/2 cups worth)
2 Tbsp sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 tsp capers, drained
2 Tbsp toasted pine nuts*
1/2 cup good feta cheese (recommend: Valbreso brand)
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp white balsamic vinegar

First make the marinated cheese. Take the feta and cut it into cubes then place in bowl. Add the red pepper flakes, vinegar, and 1 Tbsp good quality extra virgin olive oil right on top and toss the cheese in this "vinaigrette." Let stand to marinade. This can be done a few days in advance and kept covered in the fridge until ready to use.

Bring a large pot of cold water to a boil. Once boiling, add a good palmful of salt then stir to combine. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions, about 10 minutes for al dente.

Heat about two tablespoons of olive oil in a large, deep saute pan on medium heat. Add the shrimp in one even layer and season with salt and pepper to taste. As soon as you add the shrimp, add the garlic and lemon juice right on top as well and cook about 30 seconds -- the garlic will become fragrant  and the shrimp will begin to turn bright pink/orange on color. Turn the shrimp over and give the pan a good stir to cook the other side of the shrimp. Lower the heat to low and toss in the arugula, capers, and sun-dried tomatoes and mix to combine. Add a good drizzle of more olive oil -- you're adding it twice because the first time you're using it to cook and now the second time at the end for a stronger flavor. Remove from heat and add the pasta right in from the water. It's ok if some of the pasta water goes into the pan -- this will help thicken the sauce anyway so it's fine. Using tongs, gently toss the spaghetti with the shrimp and arugula mixture and add the pine nuts, then toss again. When everything is well combined, portion out into bowls and serve.

If using the cheese, simply crumble some of the cheese mixture on top in lieu of traditional parmesan; or go ahead with the parmesan if you like.

*To toast pine nuts, take a shallow dry pan and heat over medium-low heat. Add the pine nuts directly into the pan (no need for extra oil because as they heat they will release their own essential oils to help brown themselves) and cook on low heat until golden brown on all sides. Make sure to stir often to prevent burning. Once toasted, remove promptly from the pan and into another dish; letting them sit in this pan will make them burn! Can be made a few days in advance and kept in an air-tight container in the fridge.

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