Saturday, March 19, 2011

Fast and Forgiving Pasta

We’ve all been there – at the grocery store picking up a few things, knowing that it will be a rush to get dinner on the table, never mind that the groceries need to be put away at the same time. The rotisserie chickens beckon, but they’re losing their appeal.

If only there was a fast and easy dinner that wouldn’t require a lot of prep work, and wouldn’t dirty too many pots and bowls. If only the ingredients were easy to find, without going from store to store, hunting down exotic ingredients. If only the recipe was so easy it didn’t require a whole lot of brain power to assemble it.

If such a recipe existed, wouldn’t it be great if it was a little bit customizable, so you could take advantage of what’s on sale today rather than buying from a strict list?

When I’m in that quandary, pasta is often the answer. It’s filling, it’s satisfying, and it can be customized so many different ways. If you’re trying to eat more whole grains, you can opt for whole wheat pasta or you can use gluten-free noodles, if need be.

Pasta sauces today tend to be a lot lighter than the ones I grew up with, and they cook a lot faster as well. Sure, you can simmer a meaty pasta sauce all day, if you want to – but you can also throw a sauce together in less than the time it takes to cook the noodles themselves. Particularly if you live at high altitude where it takes a little longer for anything to cooking in boiling water.

This shrimp and tomato pasta is no exception. It comes together in so little time, you’ll have enough extra time to rip up some lettuce and serve a salad on the side.

Shrimp and Tomato Pasta

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 can petite diced tomatoes
8 ounces cooked shrimp
Salt and pepper, to taste
Red pepper flakes, optional
8 ounces dried pasta, cooked to al dente

If your cooked shrimp is frozen, thaw it in a strainer under cool running water. It won't take long for it to thaw.

When you've got the water on to boil for the pasta, put the oil and butter in a large nonreactive frying pan on medium heat. When the butter is melted, add the canned tomatoes with all of the juice. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper, as desired. Add the red pepper flakes, if you prefer a little heat.

Simmer the tomatoes stirring as needed while you wait for the water to boil and for the pasta to cook. When the pasta is al dente, add it to the tomatoes, and stir to coat. Add some pasta water, as needed, to thicken the sauce, then add the shrimp, cooking just long enough to heat the shrimp through.

Serve immediately.

Options: You can sauté some onions or green peppers in the oil and butter until they are soft, before adding the tomatoes. Cooked or frozen broccoli florets could be added with the tomatoes. Fresh or frozen spinach, drained, could be added after the tomatoes. Fresh basil could be added just before serving. If you want to add more vegetables to the dish, zucchini, mushrooms, or cooked eggplant would work well.

It seems like there’s always some type of shrimp on sale, so choose what you like and what's the best buy. Precooked shrimp makes this dish a little faster to prepare, but raw shrimp cooks very quickly, so you could buy raw shrimp instead. Cook the raw shrimp in the tomato sauce, adding them to the tomatoes just after you add the pasta to the boiling water. Scallops would also work in this dish.

Canned tomato products go on sale regularly. The petite diced tomatoes are easy to use, but you could buy whole canned tomatoes and hand-crush or chop them before adding to the dish. Fresh tomatoes would be great, in season.

1 comment:

sheila @ Elements said...

You're so right about pastas being the perfect choice when you need a fast and easy dinner! And they're always so tasty! :) This looks really good although my husband and I are both allergic to shellfish. :(

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