I grew up in a Polish Catholic family who liked to celebrate traditionally by fasting and refraining from eating meat until Christmas day. Christmas Eve, otherwise known as Wigilia (Vee-geel-leeya) in my household meant a few things: you were absolutely starving by the time you sat down for 7 o’clock dinner, and as a reward, you were allowed to fill up on as many carbs as possible without feeling guilty. Cue the pierogi, shallow-fried fish, mushroom soup dumplings, and oh yeah, lots of shrimp cocktail.
Similarly, Italians celebrate Christmas Eve with the Feast of Seven Fishes. In Italian, it’s referred to as La Vigilia… sound familiar? As an homage to appreciating all of the fresh seafood that is allowed on Christmas Eve, I thought I would share a wonderful dish that features two of my favourite ingredients ever: shrimp and pasta.
- 1 bag of frozen + cleaned shrimp, raw or cooked
(whatever is faster for you)
- 5-7 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 small cooking onion, diced
- 1 stalk of celery, diced
(optional if you have extra in the fridge)
- 1 680ml bottle of tomato passata
- 1 tsp of red chilli flakes, add another 1/2 tsp more if you can handle it
- 1/2 cup of dry white wine
- A few tablespoons of unsalted butter
- A long pasta of your choice — I really liked capellini because it soaked up the sauce well and cooks very fast!
- Olive oil, salt and pepper.Parsley for garnish
- Parmesan for garnish
1. Begin by placing your shrimp in a large glass or stainless steel bowl and rinse with luke-warm water to let them thaw quickly. Do this a few times until the ice has melted, and discard water. While also removing the tails, lay the shrimp out on a plate lined with paper towel, add another layer of paper towel on top and pat dry.
Remember to wash your hands once finished, and bleach the sink if you are using raw shrimp to disinfect any raw bacteria and avoid cross-contamination.
2. Mince your garlic, dice onion, celery if using, and chop parsley for garnish and place to side. In a large pan with a lid, heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. At the same time, fill a medium sized pot with water and boil for you pasta
3. Add onion and celery to the pan and cook until translucent and soft. Next, add the red chilli flakes and fry with the aromatic vegetables for a minute before adding the garlic and cooking until fragrant. If you enjoy spicier food, I would add another 1/2 tsp of chilli flakes to really punch up the heat factor.
When vegetables start to take on a light golden colour, de-glaze with white wine and add a tablespoon of unsalted butter. Stir and scrape up the bottom of the pan using a wooden spoon.
IF USING COOKED SHRIMP
4. Once the alcohol from the wine has cooked off and the pan has less liquid, add the tomato passata and stir well. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for at least 15 – 18 minutes covered on low-medium heat, stirring every few minutes. Omit step 5 if you are using already cooked shrimp.
IF USING RAW SHRIMP
5. Once the wine has cooked off, add the raw shrimp to the pan and cook lightly until the shrimp start to turn pink. By cooking them halfway with the aromatics and wine, they will absorb all of that flavourful liquid. Add the passata and stir well. The remaining time that the shrimp need to cook will happen while in the spicy tomato sauce. If shrimp are raw, omit step 7.
6. Check your pasta water–if boiling, drop the pasta and ensure to use tongs to break the pasta apart in the first few seconds so it doesn’t clump together. Capellini is very thin and can cook to al dente in 5 minutes or less.
[TIP] For other pastas, cook 3 minutes less than what the box recommends for al dente results.
7. While checking your pasta, drop your shrimp into the tomato sauce in the last 4-5 minutes to allow them to be heated through gently. You’re avoiding them becoming extremely overcooked and chewy by doing this.
8. When pasta is cooked, reserve about a 1/2 cup of pasta water and strain the rest. Add pasta to tomato sauce, drizzle a little olive oil, some Parmesan and the parsley. Toss lightly on low heat until the sauce and pasta become one cohesive mixture and the pasta is thoroughly coated.
[TIP] If the pasta looks too dry, add a splash of the starchy pasta water you’ve saved and keep tossing on low heat until the sauce turns glossy again. Pasta water is a chef’s secret to keeping any sauce naturally silky since the starches from the pasta remain in the water, making it look cloudy.
Serve with even more Parmesan cheese and parsley. Dare I say add some hot sauce on top if you’re feeling wacky and can handle the heat.
Peace and and good eats guys,?