During these seemingly amalgamating days of self-quarantine (a.k.a. lock-up), I’m constantly finding food that’s either going bad or needs using up. I attribute this regrettable position to buying more than we need out of fear of running out or of an item’s becoming unavailable. Something we never did when, in happier days, we food shopped almost daily.
Such was the case the other night, when my better half pointed to a small bowl of grape tomatoes that were going bad as well as reminded me that we had some boiled shrimp that were at their now-or-never date. As if these weren’t enough, he also pulled out a box of super-market-brand spaghetti that we bought almost seven months ago at the start of this pandemic, when pasta was difficult to obtain. I began to feel guilty or like a contestant on the television show Chopped.
After the box of spaghetti appeared, it didn’t take me too long, however, to come up with a dish that would incorporate all of these ingredients. The tomatoes, along with a few Italian-kitchen staples like olive oil, garlic, capers, and basil, would make a sauce in which to reheat the cooked shrimp.
My only concern, however, was the spaghetti. Not since grad school, have I used anything but imported Italian pasta: it cooks better; it tastes better, and heck, it even looks better. The package directions called for “10 to 11 minutes, or until tender.” I started tasting after 6 and transferred them to finish cooking in the sauce for about two minutes at 7. Although they lacked the texture of the Italian variety, they turned out just fine.
After the pasta was done, I removed the pan from the heat and decided to add a generous pat of butter to thicken and enrich the sauce. It was perfect: the sauce was savory, the shrimp sweet, and the two of us well satisfied as well as proud of having saved those withering tomatoes and expiring shrimp.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, sliced
½ teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes, or to taste
½ teaspoon dried oregano
2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
¼ cup capers, drained and rinsed
Freshly ground black pepper
¾ pound cooked shrimp
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
¼ cup shredded fresh basil
4 ounces spaghetti
1. Put water up for the spaghetti.
2. Add the olive oil and garlic to a heavy-bottomed skillet and heat slowly over medium low heat, until the garlic begins to soften and becomes aromatic, approximately 5 minutes.
3. Add the tomatoes, along with a generous pinch of salt, and increase the heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes start to break down and render their juices, approximately 5 to 6 minutes.
4. Add the capers and continue to cook the sauce for about 2 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, once the water has reached the boil add salt to taste, the spaghetti, and cook until just shy of al dente, about 6 minutes to 7 minutes.
6. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the shrimp, toss in the sauce, and cook until the shrimp are heated through, about 4 minutes.
7. When the spaghetti is just shy of al dente, transfer it with tongs to the pan. Add a ladle of water and toss the pasta with the sauce and cook until the pasta is done, about 2 minutes.
8. Remove the pan from the heat, add the butter, season with salt and pepper to taste, and stir with the spaghetti until the butter is melted and the sauce slightly thickened.
9. Sprinkle with basil.
10. Transfer the spaghetti to warmed pasta bowls and serve.
Wine Pairing: Falanghina, Grillo, Pinot Grigio