Monday, May 23, 2011

Caprese Summer Pasta with Shrimp

Hey-o! Sorry I've been gone so long. I needed to take a little break to travel, prepare for an upcoming event I'm doing Memorial Day weekend (more on that later!) and do some fundraising.
I made this pasta for dinner last week, and it earned rave reviews. I served it hot, but you could also serve it cold, or even in place of a pasta salad at a picnic. It's fresh and the flavors are bold, and that makes it a perfect dish as the weather gets warmer.

I used gemelli pasta for this recipe, because I think the spirals hold onto the sauce better, and I like the denser texture. If you have all the other ingredients, by all means don't go to the store -- use what you have on hand for pasta!


Caprese Summer Pasta with Shrimp
Serves 4

8 ounces gemelli (or your favorite pasta)
1/2 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined*
1 pint of grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
4 ounces goat cheese (NOT herbed)
1 cup raw spinach
2 tablespoons salted butter
3 cloves of garlic,* minced
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup pasta water, reserved*
salt for pasta water

large pot for pasta
large sautee pan

Boil water for pasta, cook pasta as directed, reserving about half a cup of salted water. WHILE the water boils...

Remove tails from shrimp. Toss in a bowl to coat with olive oil. Salt and pepper to season. Grill until the shrimp turn pink on both sides, turning once. Put aside.

In large sautee pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Add garlic, spinach and tomatoes. Stirring frequently, cooking for 3 or 4 minutes or until spinach is completely wilted.

When pasta is done, drain (do NOT rinse) and toss into pan with tomatoes and spinach. One-quarter cup at a time, add pasta water and toss with pasta and vegetables to evenly distribute. Crumble goat cheese over the hot mixture, and stir to combine. Some will melt. That's OK.

Add shrimp, serve.

*Garlic: If you read this, you know I often use jarred garlic. This recipe is no exception. If you use the ginormous jar of Spice World Garlic I do, use about 1 tablespoon for minced garlic for this recipe.

*Shrimp: In the last 5 years, I've cooked many, many, many shrimp dishes. I'm a seafood person. I've used every type of shrimp you can buy -- frozen, fresh, raw, cooked, salad, jumbo, extra jumbo and everything in between. I try to use 16-20 count shrimp for my recipes, but they aren't always available. When they aren't, I go with 31-40 count. For this recipe, any size should work, as long as you have about half a pound. For the raw/cooked debate... I VASTLY prefer raw shrimp. Once you cook them, they take on the flavor of what you're cooking. If you use the cooked kind, they tend to taste brininer and like, well, seafood water. Who wants to eat that? Go for raw. If you get them frozen (that's OK!), put them in a bowl of cold water (yes, cold). Let them sit for 5 minutes. Drain, and refill with room temperature water. Let the shrimp sit for a good 10 minutes and they should thaw. Take them out of the water, peel, devein and de-tail them. Ready to cook!

*Pasta water: What a simple and magical ingredient! The pasta water's job here is to bind all the ingredients together. Rather than using tons of butter or olive oil, add pasta water and it instantly makes a sauce. It keeps everything most and not too oily, and adds tremendous flavor.

*Grill: I used our outdoor gas grill for this, because I love to grill. I love the flavor imparted to the ingredients from it, and it really tastes like summer to me. If you don't have a gas grill available, feel free to use a George Foreman grill or even a grill pan. If you still don't have that available, use the olive oil and just roast the shrimp in the oven. We aim for versatility! :-)