SIMPLE SUPPERS: LEMON HERB SHRIMP OVER PASTA

When I get off work on a Friday afternoon when the weather is nice, I cannot wait to get the weekend started. I typically don't feel like making complicated food... I want it to be fast, easy and delicious. This dish is so simple to whip up for a couple or a couple dozen guests. The key is to use fresh herbs and the best shrimp you can find. For me, that is Alabama Gulf shrimp... I'm lucky to have easy access to it. Frozen shrimp will work if that is what you can get but oh my, what a difference you will taste if you use fresh shrimp. Make this for supper and serve it with some toasty bread and a nice chilled glass of white wine and you've got a good start on a relaxing weekend.

Simple Suppers Lemon Herb Shrimp over Pasta

LEMON HERB SHRIMP OVER PASTA

Yield: 4 servings

INGREDIENTS

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cloves garlic, smashed

2 tomatoes

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

pinch red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme

1 pound fresh Gulf shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails left on

1 cup seafood stock (I make my own using the shrimp shells but you can use the boxed kind)

1/2 cup white wine (I used a Sauvignon Blanc)

1 lemon, sliced

 1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley

Hot cooked angel hair or pasta of your choice... I use angel hair because it only takes a few minutes to cook.

DIRECTIONS:

Cook the pasta per package directions to al dente. Set aside.

In a large skillet or saucepan over medium high heat, add the olive oil. Once it is hot, add the smashed cloves of garlic and saute. Tilt the pan to make sure the oil covers the garlic and cook it for 2 minutes to infuse the oil with the garlic flavor. Cut the tops off of the tomatoes and crush them with your hand into the pan, squeezing all the juice from them. Add salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, bay leaves and oregano. Break the tomatoes into small pieces and cook for one minute. Add the wine and the stock. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes. Check the seasoning. You may need to add a bit more salt and pepper. Add the shrimp and allow them to cook for 2 minutes. Squeeze the lemon halves over the shrimp and drop both halves into the pan.  Flip the shrimp and cook another 2-3 minutes on the other side or just until the shrimp turn pink. Remove from heat. Add the butter. Cover and let stand for 2 minutes. Drain the pasta and toss with the shrimp and sauce. Add the parsley and some Parmesan, if desired.

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RECIPE: HEARTY BEEF BOLOGNESE

I don't think I like anything much more than Bolognese-- a rich meat sauce usually served over pasta. I build my Bolognese with lots of flavor--- and really let it cook down to almost a paste consistency to make it really hearty. You can reconstitute it with stock if you want to thin it out a little before serving. Bolognese, a cold salad, some fresh bread, and a good bottle of wine is a party in my book. 

Hearty Beef Bolognese over pasta

 Prep Time: 15    Cook Time: 1 hour

INGREDIENTS

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 strips bacon or pancetta, diced

1 large onion, diced fine

1 cup carrots, diced very fine or grated

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon fresh thyme- minced (ok use 1/2 t. dried thyme instead)

1/2 teaspoon fresh oregano, minced (ok to use 1/4 t. dried oregano)

Pinch fresh ground nutmeg

1 1/2 pounds ground beef

1 pound ground veal (optional, substitute beef or ground pork if you prefer)

 3 tablespoons tomato paste

2 cups red wine (optional- you can sub beef or chicken broth)

1 can (28 ounces) whole tomatoes including the juice, crushed

1 can (28 ounces) tomato puree

3 cups beef broth (you can also use vegetable or chicken)

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Pinch red pepper flakes

2 bay leaves

Pinch. sugar

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon. fresh Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped fine

1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated or shaved

DIRECTIONS:

Add the olive oil to a large pot and heat. Over medium-high heat, add the bacon and cook until browned. Add the carrots and onions. Cook until soft. Add the garlic and cook for a minute, stirring constantly. Add the beef and the sausage. Cook until the meat is browned, about 5 minutes. Drain off any extra grease. Return to the heat. Add the tomato paste and cook for one minute, stirring constantly over medium high heat. Add the salt, pepper, oregano, thyme, and nutmeg. Allow the mixture to brown well, you will hear some popping and crackling. This is a good thing. Don't stir too often but don't let it burn, either. Cook until a crust forms.

Add 1 cup of the red wine (or use stock if you are not cooking with the wine) and use that to deglaze the bottom of the pan, scraping all of the crust off the bottom of the pan. Reduce the heat to medium. Let the wine reduce completely, stirring occasionally. Add the other cup of wine and cook, reducing the liquid until it is almost completely gone. Once the wine has cooked down, add the juice from the whole tomatoes. Reduce the heat. Then crush 6 tomatoes by hand and add them to the pot. Use an immersion blender to puree the remaining tomatoes. Add that plus the tomato puree and half of the beef broth. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly to keep the sauce from sticking on the bottom of the pot. Add the sugar, red pepper flakes, and the bay leaf. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 2 hours, stirring frequently. Add more beef broth as the sauce cooks down and becomes thick. You want the sauce to be very thick and paste like but you can add the broth to reconstitute it a bit if you like.

Before serving, remove the bay leaf. Stir in the cream. Serve with the Parmesan cheese over any hot pasta you like. Sprinkle the cheese over the hot pasta, then ladle over the sauce. Top with fresh parsley.

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RECIPE: PARMESAN CHEESE SKILLET SPAGHETTI CAKE

If you're like me, you always make too much pasta and have a ton left over. Here's a way to use it! My Parmesan Cheese Skillet Spaghetti Cake uses pantry or fridge items you simply bake in a cast iron skillet. It's pretty fantastic. In fact, you can throw just about anything you want in there... leftover roasted veggies, a bit of sausage or even leftover short ribs. This easy recipe is great for an impromptu party or for  dinner, as a side dish or anytime you have leftover pasta. Add some marinara on the side. You’ll love it!

PARMESAN CHEESE SKILLET SPAGHETTI CAKE

Prep Time: 10 minutes    Cook time: 15 minutes

INGREDIENTS

1/2 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon olive oil

1 clove garlic, smashed

12 ounces angel hair pasta, cooked and drained

2 eggs

1 ½ cups Parmesan cheese, grated, plus 1/4 cup more for serving

1 teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

 

DIRECTIONS: 

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain. Toss with ½ teaspoon olive oil. Set aside.

Put the eggs in a large bowl and whisk them well. Whisk in the salt, pepper and the garlic. Add the pasta and the cheese. Toss to coat evenly.

Put 1 tablespoon olive oil in a cast iron or oven-proof skillet over medium high heat. When it gets hot, add the smashed garlic clove and let it cook 1-2 minutes but don’t let it burn. Remove from heat. Use the back of a knife to turn the garlic clove into a paste. Mix it into the pasta.

Turn the heat down to medium. Carefully spin the hot skillet to distribute the olive oil. Pour the pasta mixture into the hot pan. Let it cook 3-4 minutes or until well-browned. Use a large spatula or two small ones to flip the cake and brown the other side; about 4 minutes more. The cake is done when the eggs are set and the cheese is melted.

If you prefer not to flip the cake, no problem. You can finish it in the oven. Before you start, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Once you've cooked the cake on the stove to brown the bottom, move the pan into the oven and cook for 10 minutes more or until the top is golden brown and the eggs are completely set. (Make sure to use an oven safe pan like a cast iron skillet)

To serve, run a knife around the edges to loosen the cake and turn it out on a heat-proof platter or wooden cutting board. Sprinkle with more freshly grated Parmesan and some finely chopped Italian parsley.

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