Ed. Note—The Athlete's Table is back! Fresh off his inclusion in the January/February "Fuel" issue of Triathlete Magazine, Aaron Vinten of The Athlete's Table returns for his take on a classic recipe.
People started canning tomatoes as a way to preserve a summer bounty of fresh ripe tomatoes for those colder winter months. Well, guess what...it's winter, I’m cold and I'm certainly hungry! Let's bust out some sauce. Take a walk down any "Italian" food isle at the grocery store and you will eventually arrive upon a spectacular display of jarred pasta sauces. A shining example of the modern American food system at it's best. Mass quantity and variety. As good as that may be, you need to be careful, not all sauces are created equal, if you can call them sauce at all. Pick a high quality sauce without added sugars, tomato paste, preservatives or unnecessary ingredients. I find that a simple (and more expensive) marinara sauce is usually my favorite.
Canning has existed for centuries and has allowed humans to feed themselves when times are rough and food is scare. The process is still popular today on the small scale home level and you can often find local shops and purveyors selling at road side stands and at farmer markets. If you're interested in learning the science and technique behind canning at home for yourself, check out this article from America Test Kitchen and the book Foolproof Preserving. It’s a good read.
Many cultures from around the world have canned and preserved an abundance of summer ripened tomatoes for the winter months. It's not just the Italians, but also the French, Spanish and just about any other region or country that has a strong horticultural climate for growing tomatoes. While almost anything can be canned, the ubiquitous tomato still reigns supreme. Next time you're at the grocery store, look down on the bottom shelf and you will often find a product called “Tomato Passata,” meaning "strained through." This is the pure, raw, unsalted, unsweetened form of tomato and if you poured it over some pasta...you probably wouldn't like it very much. It’s as old-school authentic as your going to find at the grocery store and is an awesome base for all sort of tomato dishes, including this Shrimp Scampi Pasta.
As you come back to eye level, you'll see an overwhelming amount of commercially produced brands of pasta sauces to choose from. A few i’m sure you already have in your kitchen, or at least I hope you do for the sake of this recipe! I typically choose a basic marinara sauce that has the least amount of ingredients and is free from added sugars and tomato paste. No way am I buying a cheap bottle of sauce. Read the ingredients carefully. I’ll gladly pay $9 dollars for a real bottle of pasta sauce. That RAO's sauce in the picture above is a keeper and that's what we used in this recipe.
What does all this tomato talk mean for me the hungry athlete? Having a jarred sauce available takes a lot of work off your shoulders. Cook up a little pasta (or try this cauliflower grits, corn polenta or even a baked potato), cook up some fresh shrimp, add some vegetables and then top with your favorite store bought sauce…and BOOM! An easy and fast dinner with a little flair and this Shrimp Scampi Pasta is a perfect example! I especially love making this after a long, cold winter training run as it is a comforting, hardy and warm way to defrost those frozen fingers and toes. Protein, carbs and vegetables!
SOUND GOOD? LET’S GET COOKING!
STEP 1: PRINT THE RECIPE
Print this EASY recipe card below (if available) and follow along with all the pictures!
SHRIMP SCAMPI PASTA: 1lb Large Shrimp (Cleaned & Deveined), 3 Tbls Unsalted Butter, 3 Tbls Olive Oil, 1/4 Cup Shallot (Minced), 3 Tbls Garlic (Crushed or Chopped), 1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper, 1/2 Tsp Smoked Paprika, 1/2 Cup Chardonnay, 1 Cups Jarred Marinara Sauce, Kosher Salt (to taste), Black Pepper (to taste), 1-2 Package(s) Broccolini. 1 Package Pasta (as desired)
INSTRUCTIONS: Gather all your ingredient in front of you and prep each ingredient as indicated above. Before cooking, preheat your oven to 500 degrees. On the stove top, bring a pot of salted water to a rolling boil as well as a large high-sided frying pan for cooking the shrimp.
Turn the frying pan heat to high and add the butter, olive oil and shallots. When the butter begin to bubble, add the cleaned and deveined shrimp. Allow the shrimp to cook until pink around the edges on the top side. Flip the shrimp and the spices, lemon juice and garlic. Next add the chardonnay and reduce the wine for roughly 1 minute with the heat kept on HIGH. Next, add the herbs and tomato sauce. Gently swirl the pan (or use a spoon) to incorporate the ingredients. Place the cut and trimmed vegetables directly on top of the shrimp mixture. Season the top with salt and black pepper and place directly into the oven and cook for 5-7 minutes until the vegetables have softened and are cooked through.
While the shrimp is in the oven, drop your pasta in the boiling salted water and cook as directed on the packaging. Drain the pasta and remove the shrimp from the oven when the vegetables are cooked. Combine the pasta, shrimp, and vegetables as desired in a serving bowl. Finish with a bit more of the fresh herbs, lemon zest & parmesan cheese as desired. Take a picture, post it to instagram and tag me! THEN EAT!!
STEP 2: GATHER & PREP INGREDIENTS
Preheat your oven to 500 degrees and gather all your ingredients out in front of you and be prepared for this recipe to move fast. As always, you can find all the ingredients in your local grocery store, but if I can make one recommendation about the shrimp…don’t SHRIMP ON THE SHRIMP! Buy the biggest and best that you can find and afford. Make an effort to seek out large wild caught shrimp (and all seafood for that matter) and shop from a reputable grocery store that has a high turn over in the seafood department. There is no organic standard for seafood so you have to put trust in the retail outlet selling seafood to you. That's why I get picky about seafood and where you purchase it from. Sometimes, you just never know what your actually buying, how it was raised, or where it came from.
In my freezer is a large bag of frozen, 16-20 wild caught shrimp with the legs & tails still on from Whole Foods. These are pretty big shrimp and are my "go to" for having shrimp-on-demand when I’m ready to make a recipe.
STEP 3: BUTTER UP BUTTERCUP
Turn the heat to HIGH on a large 12 inch skillet. Add the butter, olive oil, shallots. Get the skillet really hot until you start to see the butter/oil mixture starting to bubble and smoke a bit. Season the shrimp with salt and black pepper and quickly add evenly over the width of the pan.
Allow the shrimp to cook until you see the classic pink color on the edges of the shrimp and flip to cook on the other side. Keep the heat on high and get ready to make some delicious sauce!
STEP 4: LET'S GET SAUCY
After flipping the shrimp, evenly sprinkle the cayenne, smoked paprika and garlic over the shrimp and squeeze the juice of one lemon on top.
Keep that heat HIGH and add in the chardonnay. Allow a minute or two for the wine to reduce. Then add in your favorite jarred marinara sauce, dill and parsley. Give the shrimp a stir to better combine the sauce mixture. Grab a spoon and give the sauce a quick taste. Season with a bit of salt and pepper if desired.
STEP 5: VEGGIE TIME!
With the shrimp and sauce going strong in the pan, add the broccolini on top of the shrimp and place the whole pan into the oven for 5-7 minutes for the the broccolini to cook in the oven and a bit more moisture to evaporate from the sauce.
While the shrimp is in the oven, drop the pasta into the boiling salted water and cook as directed.
STEP 6: TOSS IT UP
Remove the shrimp from the oven and set on the stove top to cool. This sauce is not intended to be a heavy tomato sauce. It it suppose to be a light tomato sauce that just barley covers the pasta. If you want a heavier tomato flavor, you can always add more tomato sauce at this point. Taste the sauce and season as desired with additional salt and black pepper.
Finish cooking the pasta, drain the water and place the desired portion sizes into a serving dish. Or, you can just toss all the pasta, shrimp, sauce and brocollini together and stir it all up. Ether way, you’re gonna be one happy eater.
STEP 7: EAT!
This Shrimp Scampi Pasta is a great way to come home from a long run on a cold winter day. A balanced plate of proteins, carbs and vegetables all come together in a delicious and light red tomato scampi sauce that will please even the most picky eaters.