8/04/2021

Orecchiette with Shrimp, Pepperoncini and Basil

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Ready for a quick weeknight dinner that is so incredibly delicious you'll want to serve it to company?  This is it!  Think shrimp scampi with a power punch of flavor from Pepperoncini peppers and fresh basil.  You could use any pasta , but the orecchiette, which means "little ears" is perfect because it cradles all those wonderful ingredients and flavors.  

Speaking of ingredients and flavors, there a food pairing in this recipe that, for some people, is either up for debate or strictly forbidden.  Cheese and seafood.  I could write a whole separate post about this topic. This pairing is definitely a no-no in most Italian households.  Why?  Maybe because the major cheese region in Italy is landlocked and no where near fresh seafood.  Maybe because, for some people, one flavor overpowers the other.  But let's think about it...  Anyone ever heard of a tuna melt? What about baked clams with cheese or smoked salmon and cream cheese.  How about that classic holiday appetizer made with a brick of cream cheese, crab and cocktail sauce?? And let's not forget about anchovies on pizza.  

So, sometimes I think that rules are meant to be broken.  If it works for your palate, go for it.  If it is against your culinary religion, just omit it.  Once again, make it for you, make it your won.  Happy cooking!

Oh, wait... You might also be wondering about the baking soda.  I find that a quick brine of salt and baking soda help tenderize the shrimp.  

Orecchiette with Shrimp, Pepperoncini and Basil 
serves 4-6

1/1/2 pound extra-large shrimp (21-25 count), peeled, deveined, tails remove, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 1/2 cups (12-ounces) orecchiette pasta
1/3 cup Extra Virgin olive oil
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup (1-ounce) Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
1/4 cup chopped pepperoncini, plus 1 Tablespoon brine
1/4 capers, rinsed and roughly chopped
1/4 chopped fresh basil
Lemon wedges for serving

Sprinkle shrimp with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and baking soda.  Let sit for 10 minutes and then refrigerate until ready to use.

Bring 4 quarts of water to a a boil in a large pot.  Add pasta and 1 tablespoon of salt, cook, stirring frequently, until al dente (or cooked until your liking).  Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water, then drain pasta.

In now empty pot over medium heat, heat oil until shimmering.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant and lightly browned, about 1 minute.  Add shrimp and cook until just opaque, about 4 minutes.

Off heat, add pasta, Parmesan, pepperoncini and brine, capers, basil, and reserved cooking water; toss to combine.  Serve passing lemon wedges and extra Parmesan separately. Enjoy!

Source: Adapted from cookscountry.com



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