Saturday afternoon it started snowing and I immediately knew I wanted to make some sort of pasta for dinner. If there is one thing that is the absolute best in Hampton Bays – like better than anywhere else in the Hamptons or New York City even – it’s Cor-J Seafood. It’s simply the most honest, well-stocked seafood merchant and the people know what they are talking about and the fish is insanely fresh and going here, for me, is seriously one of my favorite activities. So I had these gorgeous U-15 shrimp and needed a plan. Snowy weather, red wine…red sauce. Seemed obvious.
Growing up, my Dad was always weird about shrimp. His shrimp had to be de-vained. So naturally, I always de-vain my shrimp and it’s a pain in the butt and I don’t even mind it not being done but I still do it anyways because I always have. So once the shrimp were de-shelled and de-vained, I put a pot of salted water to boil for the pasta and dinner was around the corner.
In a hot pan, I heated about 1 tB. of olive oil and added another heaping 1 tB. of chopped garlic. As you can see from the photo, I always buy the giant tubs of pre-chopped garlic because I use so much garlic in my cooking and I like to save time. I think sliced garlic would have looked better in this situation – for example, I would ONLY make Linguine with Oil and Garlic with fresh, sliced garlic – but the point here is, one way or another, the dish is heavy on the garlic. Once the garlic is browned a bit (make sure NOT to BURN it, yuck), I add the shrimp one-by-one using tongs. I like using tongs when cooking shrimp so I can methodically turn them over. Once the shrimp were in the pan, I seasoned them with a Lemon Pepper mix (also from Whole Foods) and red pepper flakes (omit if you don’t want this EXTRA spicy) and let the undersides turn a golden orange for about 90 seconds. After I flipped each shrimp, I let them sear for one more minute before de-glazing the pan with a bit of my red wine. Once all the bits of caramelized garlic were off the bottom of the pan, I added about 1 cup of fra-daviolo sauce and let it come to a simmer.
In the boiling water, I cooked 1.5 cups of penne pasta to an al dente texture. Once strained, I immediately put the pasta in with the simmering sauce and shrimp and mixed well. I find this is the key to making delicious pasta. You have to let the pasta finish cooking in whatever sauce you are serving it in so the pasta can actually soak up some of the sauce in the cooking process.
Soup to nuts this dish probably took 30 minutes to make – and that’s accounting for the annoying de-vaining process. The truth is, when it came time to eat, I finished mine with parmesan cheese. I would have LOVED to have ricotta salata but just as I am typing this am I realizing how perfect that would have been. About 15 years ago, Daniel and I went to Pierluigi in Rome – a restaurant to this day I would highly recommend. I ordered Mussels Fra Diavolo and it came with ricotta salata on top and I was SHOCKED and it was divine (similar to how the Greek put feta on their mussels). It was the first time I had felt like cheese on seafood could not only be OK, but outstanding. It’s like growing up I always thought you couldn’t wear blue and black together because it clashed but now I realize that navy and black is actually a super cool combo. End note: “Rules” were meant to be broken.