Shrimp and Angel Hair Pasta in a Lemon, Garlic and Caper Sauce

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On a Friday night about 10 years ago when my now husband, then boyfriend were living together, we received a call from his parents at dinnertime asking us to drive them to Atlantic City at 9 pm to meet his mother’s sister and her daughter for a last minute visit.  Argh.  But, a little storytelling…  My mother-in-law is an interesting person.  Her family escaped from North Korea to South Korea when she was a child and then as an adult with her own family, she left South Korea for the United States.  With both journeys she left most of her family behind and it would be decades until she would be reunited with her mother, sister, and other loved ones.  Okay, so how does this related to shrimp and angel hair pasta in a lemon, garlic, and caper sauce?

Well, it was on this impromptu and important trip to Caesars Palace in Atlantic City, NJ to reunite with family whom she hadn’t seen in years that I first had a taste of a similar dish, of which my recipe is loosely based.  At 11:00 pm in one of the many hotel restaurants, we ordered appetizers and shrimp scampi pasta.  And as I sat surrounded by a flurry of very loud, excited Korean conversation, none of which I understood, my only real option was to eat.  And so I did.  While family members caught up on lost time, I sampled all the food.  The shrimp scampi pasta was yummy but as I recall it, I remember the thick linguini covered in a really garlicky, heavy with a lemon butter sauce and spotted with some lonely shrimp.  But don’t get me wrong, it was tasty and I ate it but as my memory recalls it, I wanted to make a lighter, fresher version.  And here it is.

My recipe uses shell on jumbo shrimp (but no heads because I just can’t do that.  Remember my phobia of food that looks like it did in it’s original form?), fresh angel hair pasta made from a blend of semolina and all purpose flour and a sauce of homemade shrimp stock, lemon zest and juice, lots of garlic, salty briny capers, and fresh basil and parsley.  Is your mouth watering yet?  Mine is and I just ate it two days  ago but now I want it again.

Don’t be intimidated by the shell on shrimp…  I’ll show you how easy it is to clean and devein them.  Plus the shells do make a delicious stock.  If you don’t have the time/energy/inclination towards fresh pasta, use your favorite boxed, just remember to make sure to cook the pasta 90% of the way through and then throw it in the skillet to finish cooking in the sauce to ensure the most flavorful final product.

Here’s how I make it:

  • 1 lb. angel hair pasta (I make my own Semolina Pasta recipe, but feel free to use whatever you want)
  • 1 lb. shrimp with shells, cleaned and shelled.  Reserve the shells for the stock.
  • 1/2 C. shrimp stock (or white wine) – recipe below
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 lemons, zested and juiced
  • 2 T. capers, drained and chopped
  • 1 T. red pepper flakes (optional or less if you don’t like as much heat)
  • 2 T. fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 T. fresh parsley, chopped

Clean and devein the shrimp.  Take a pair of kitchen shears and cut along the middle lengthwise deep enough to get to the digestive tract.  Pull out and remove, if necessary.  Have a saucepan handy to put the shells and tails in.  Once ready, set the shrimp aside and squeeze with the juice of half a lemon.

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Shrimp stock:

  • shells from one pound of shrimp
  • 1 onion, halved
  • 1 carrot, halved
  • 1 celery stock, halved
  • 1 tsp. whole peppercorns
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • water to cover

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Place all ingredients in stockpot.  Don’t worry about trimming, you’ll strain the stock later.  Bring to boil then reduce to hard simmer and cover.  Cook for 20 minutes (or until your ready to start cooking the shrimp).

Boil pasta water.  If you’re using boxed pasta, drop the pasta in now because the shrimp and sauce won’t take more than 5-7 minutes to finish.  If you’re using fresh, wait to drop the pasta in until the shrimp is cooked through because the angel hair will cook in literally 2 minutes.

Place 1 T. of butter and 1 T. olive oil in pan over medium high heat.  Add garlic and cook for 1 minute.  Add shrimp, season with salt and pepper.  Add remaining lemon zest and juice.  Cook shrimp for until pink on the first side (about 2 minutes), then flip.  Cook another two minutes.  (this is when you would drop your fresh pasta in the boiling water.)  Add capers.  Add shrimp stock.  Cook for 1 minute to allow flavors to combine.  Add pasta and using tongs, coat completely in sauce.  Top with basil and parsley. Serve and enjoy!

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(If you don’t have one the ^^ gadgets, I highly recommend.  I got mine for $2 at Marshall’s and it saves me a lot of time and burned fingers from retrieving lemon seeds.  Digression: isn’t it strange how lemons have so many more seeds than limes?)

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Notes:

  • Make it Gluten Free by using your favorite GF pasta, everything else is fine.
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