An unknown, but clearly intelligent and resourceful person, once said, “necessity is the mother of invention”. I think this is particularly true when it comes to the culinary world. Many of what are now famous dishes, Spanish tortilla, Italian frittata, stir-fry’s, anything that’s a one-dish dinner, spring from necessity. And, this is just such a recipe. It was Friday. It was rainy. It was late. The Spicy Honey was tired. The Goddess was tired…it was a long week. We didn’t want to go out, but we were hungry. And I had a half-pound of cleaned shrimp. Keep in mind, it could have been half a pound of hamburger or a chicken breast and this would still work. This recipe is the perfect example of having a well-stocked pantry—garlic, canned tomatoes, frozen bell pepper strips, herbs, frozen orange juice concentrate and pasta. And, I always have a bottle of white wine I use just for cooking. Right now, I’m liking Frontera™ “Moonlight” to cook with. It’s inexpensive, but it has some nice flavor. Perfect!
This went together in about 20 minutes from start to “dinner is served”. And if I do say so myself, I think this is one of the best pasta sauces I’ve made. I think it’s because I got the salt right. When I tasted the sauce, just before I dumped the pasta into the sauce, it tasted salty. Salty enough so I was concerned. But, my concern was for naught. After I added the slightly under-cooked pasta to the sauce, I let it simmer for about 2 minutes. During those 2 minutes, magic happened. The pasta pulled any excess salt from the sauce and the dish became perfectly balanced. Do not leave the orange juice concentrate or the cumin out. The FCOJ adds just the right amount of sweetness to balance the acid in the tomatoes and cumin adds umami. Balance is essential in cooking, much like it is in life!
When you’re ready to eat, put the water for the pasta on to boil. Dice up the veggies, the ham and cut the shrimp into bite-sized pieces, if they are really large. Add the first amount of oil, the bell peppers, tomatoes with their juices, the oregano, cumin and the grated garlic to a sauté pan. Sprinkle very liberally with kosher salt, about 1/3 teaspoon. Place the pan over medium-high heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 2-3 minutes, or until the liquid begins to reduce. Sprinkle again with additional salt. Toss in the ham; give it a good stir and stir in the white wine. Simmer for another 2 or 3 minutes. You want the sauce to be pretty thick at this point. Toss in the shrimp and frozen orange juice concentrate; sprinkle again with salt. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 2-3 minutes; the shrimp will not be fully cooked. Now, taste the sauce; it should taste almost too salty. I know this is very subjective, but you need to find your own way with this. In total, I used a good teaspoon, maybe a bit more, of kosher salt. Add the hot, slightly under-cooked pasta, to the pan; add the basil. I added about 3 tablespoons of the pasta water, too. Stir, or better yet, toss the mixture, using the pan and your wrist, to toss it. This takes some practice, so start practicing! Start slow, don’t go crazy, but it’s good to teach yourself how to toss things with nothing but the pan and your wrist. Once the pasta is al dente, spoon into bowls, top with parmesan and serve with some good bread.
This sauce would be equally delicious over polenta or rice.
Quick Shrimp-Tomato and Herb Sauce
- 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup coarsely diced bell peppers
- 8 cloves garlic, grated
- 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes, including their juice
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, added 3-4 times during cooking (see NOTE)
- 1 teaspoon dry oregano
- Large pinch ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup finely chopped smoky ham (about 2 ounces)
- 1/3 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 pound shelled and cleaned shrimp
- 3-4 teaspoons frozen concentrated orange juice
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 pound small pasta, slightly undercooked
- 2 tablespoons julienned fresh basil leaves
- 1 1/2 tablespoons richly flavored olive oil for service
- Shredded parmesan cheese for service
Heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the first amount of oil, the bell peppers, tomatoes with their juices, some kosher salt and the grated garlic. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 4 minutes, or until the liquid begins to reduce. Add the dry oregano, cumin, red pepper flakes, the ham and the white wine. Simmer for another 2 or 3 minutes, then toss the shrimp and frozen orange juice concentrate and additional salt. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes; the shrimp will not be fully cooked; add the remaining salt and stir. Taste the sauce; it should taste almost too salty. Add the hot, slightly under-cooked pasta, to the pan, along with the basil. Stir, or better yet, toss the mixture, using the pan and your wrist, to toss it. This takes some practice, so start practicing! Otherwise, use a couple of spatulas to combine the pasta with the sauce. Simmer until the pasta is al dente, 1-2 minutes. Spoon into bowls, add a good drizzle of highly flavored olive oil and some shredded parmesan. Serve immediately.
NOTE: I use Diamond Crystal™ Brand kosher salt. The crystals are a bit larger and you can feel the salt. I added at least one teaspoon of salt, but I think probably a bit more. The sauce should taste saltier than you think it should. It will be just right, when you simmer the pasta in the sauce for a couple of minutes.
Quick Shrimp-Tomato and Herb Sauce Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2021. All rights reserved.
And that’s all she wrote….