A few days ago I had an Italian friend coming over for dinner and I couldn’t decide what to cook. I thought I would play it dangerously and prepare a pasta dish. Spaghetti with shrimps, a meal that many of my family members and friends have enjoyed before.
When it comes to pasta, an Italian is difficult to satisfy. I knew that so I had to make the dish a little more elaborate. The secret is to create your own stock with the shells and heads of the shrimps and boil the spaghetti with it. It takes a little bit more work but the result is rewarding. When you get compliments from an Italian for your spaghetti, you know that you did a great job!
When tomato sauce comes into play, you may have noticed from previous recipes that I always use a mixture of fresh tomatoes with some tomato paste or passata. The fresh tomatoes make the sauce more “alive” while the concentrated paste adds sweetness, thickness and colour to it.
Ingredients (serves 4 people)
750 gr (1.6 lb) spaghetti.
~ 20 large shrimps with the shell on.
1 red pepper chopped.
1 large onion chopped.
1 red chilli pepper finely chopped.
4-5 large sweet and juicy tomatoes.
4-5 large garlic cloves sliced.
A bunch of flat-leave parsley.
½ cup of extra virgin olive oil.
2 tablespoons of tomato paste or 250 ml (8 fl oz) of tomato passata.
1 tablespoon of dried oregano.
Salt and ground pepper.
Before starting the cooking process, peel the shrimps and put the skin, heads and tails in a large sauce pan. Fill the pan with water and bring it to boil. When it starts boiling, lower the heat to minimum and let it boil for ~ 45 minutes. This is the water that you will use for the spaghetti later.
Add the tomatoes together with half of the parsley in a blender and prepare the tomato mixture.
In an large frying pan on a medium heat, add half of the olive oil and start frying the onions, red pepper and chilli pepper until they get soft. Add the garlic, let it cook for a couple of minutes. We do not want the garlic to get brown, it looses all the flavour.
Pour the tomato mixture from the blender into the pan. Add the tomato paste with ½ cup of hot water or just the passata without any water. Add the oregano, salt and pepper to taste and stir well. At this point, I like to add a teaspoon of paprika, it’s up to you. Let the sauce cook on a low to medium heat until the juices have reduced.
In the meantime use the stock you prepared with the shrimp shells to boil the pasta in a large pot. Use a strainer to make sure there are no shells left in the stock. Add some water if the stock is not enough, some sea salt and cook the spaghetti until “al dente”. Before draining the pasta, keep a cup of the boiling water aside.
~ 10 minutes before you are ready to serve add the raw shrimps in the tomato sauce, stir well and cook them for a few minutes until they get pink. The shrimps should not be overcooked because they become hard.
Drain the pasta, add ~ ¼ of a cup of extra virgin olive oil in the pot you boiled the spaghetti in and warm it up on a low heat. Add the spaghetti and start stirring until they are all covered with the oil. While stirring, add a little bit of the “pasta water” that you kept aside to obtain a creamy result. If they look too dry, add some more.
Serve the spaghetti with the shrimps and tomato sauce on top, some finely-chopped parsley to garnish and you are good to go!