Shrimp Scampi a la Sidra

serves 6-8

My favorite part of shrimp scampi is the sauce with the veggies and pasta. I love the shrimp too, but the veggies are my favorite part. When I find a good one at a restaurant, like Legal’s Shrimp & Garlic, I always ask for extra veggies. A quick shout out to my all time favorite shrimp scampis – Cafe Martorano, The Ta-boo, and Bricco come to mind right now.

For years I struggled with creating a version of shrimp scampi that had enough sauce. I’m not a chef, so I experimented with many different versions using varying amounts of white wine, butter and heavy cream. Unfortunately (or fortunately) nothing really panned out; it was way too rich and fattening. I owe this recipe to the one day I was ironing something; I hate ironing and avoid it at all costs. I had the TV on and caught Jacques Pépin cooking pasta with another chef buddy. My take aways from his show were (a) add sea salt to your pasta water (b) reserve 1-to-2 cups of the pasta water when the pasta is done for augmenting your sauce. Life changing!

As with one of my other pasta dish creations, Pasta No Pasta, this is not a 1 pan dish, though it does all come together in one pan in the final steps. The ingredient list is very similar to the Pasta No Pasta, though it’s not tomato based so no crushed tomatoes.

  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ tsp crushed red pepper
  • Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • fine sea salt ← the pot I use for boiling my pasta is a 4qt pot and I use 2T of sea salt
  • 1 1lb box of ziti
  • 1+ cups fresh basil, chopped ← I don’t think you can ever really have too much basil
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced ← ½ used sautéing mushrooms, ½ used sautéing shrimp
  • 6-to-8 T butter (a stick) ← for sautéing the mushrooms
  • 2 packages baby bell mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 bunch of asparagus, sliced diagonally in 2″ slices ← if you are not an asparagus fan, use broccoli slice into bite sized pieces instead
  • 6-to-8 shrimp per person, peeled & deveined
  • a large clump of small vine ripened tomatoes, quartered
  • 1-to-2 cups pasta water ← don’t forget to drain your cooked pasta over a cup or bowl! More than once I’ve been distracted and forgot…so sad when that happens. Now I always get out my largest measuring cup and put it next to the sieve BEFORE I start making this dish.
  • As mentioned previously, this is not a 1 pan dish. You’ll need
    • a large dutch oven or pan, large enough to hold EVERYTHING at the very end
    • a large/deep serving dish to accommodate all the ingredients plus pasta
    • a pan for sautéing the mushrooms
    • a pot for par-boiling the asparagus ← I use the same pot for boiling the pasta
    • a sieve/stainer for rinsing the asparagus after par-boiling and a large measuring cup or bowl to reserve the water
  • Ingredients are listed in the order that I typically follow to prep and cook, some things can be done in parallel to reduce “time to table”
  • Par-boil the asparagus, cover and set aside
    • To par-boil, bring the water to a full boil. Once the water is boiling, add the asparagus and let boil for 2 minutes. After 2 minutes, rinse under cool water in a colander to stop the cooking process, cover and set aside.
  • Rinse out the pot and get the water boiling again for the pasta; add 2T sea salt. When pasta is done, make sure you reserve 2 cups of the pasta water. The pasta will be added to the serving dish in the final steps
  • While you are waiting for the pot of water to boil for the pasta you can start sautéing your mushrooms and shrimp
    • in a skillet on low heat, add 2-to-4 T of butter and ½ of the minced garlic.
      • As soon as the garlic starts to become aromatic, add the sliced mushrooms
      • You will need to add more butter, the amount depending on quantity of mushrooms you use. Keep stirring and adding butter until you can tell things wont stick and burn
      • Season with salt and pepper and then let mushrooms continue to simmer, stirring occasionally
      • when they look “done”, typically 10-15 minutes, cover and set aside
    • in the dutch oven, on low-to-medium heat, add 2-to-4 T olive oil (amount depends on the number of shrimp you are using), the remaining ½ of the minced garlic and the crushed red pepper
      • once the garlic starts to become aromatic, add the shrimp checking every few minutes and flipping once it looks ½ way done. This probably takes 5+ minutes.
      • once the shrimp is done, add the mushrooms (juice and all), stir and let simmer a 2-to-3 minutes
      • next add the asparagus, stir and let simmer 2-to-3 minutes
      • lastly, add the tomatoes, stir, turn the heat on low, cover and let them “warm up” for about 5 minutes
  • Final steps
    • in a serving dish, large enough to hold the pasta and the contents of the dutch oven, you want to combine everything in layers. I picked ⅓ to illustrate adding everything in 3 batches.
    • I start with adding ⅓ of the Parmesan cheese, ⅓ of the basil, ⅓ of the contents in the dutch oven, ⅓ of the pasta water and ⅓ of the pasta
    • Repeat this process until everything is added to the serving bowl. You may not be able to fit it all; often I end up not using all the pasta. If if all doesn’t fit in the serving bowl, combine what doesn’t in the dutch oven to keep warm for 2nds or 3rds.
    • Taste for seasoning; sometimes it may need more salt

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