Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pasta sauce gets pleasantly spicy
in Shrimp Fra Diavolo

When I saw the recipe’s name, Shrimp Fra Diavolo, I figured “Fra Diavolo” was referring to the sauce of the pasta dish.
   My suspicions were correct. A check of Wikipedia yielded the information that the Italian phrase refers to a spicy sauce for pasta or seafood. Often, the sauce is tomato-based and uses chili peppers for spice. According to chef Mario Batali, the spicy sauce is an Italian-American creation and is rarely served in Italy.
   In Shrimp Fra Diavolo (click for the recipe), a delicious recipe from Food Network Magazine, red pepper flakes provide the spice in the sauce.
   I halved the amount of red pepper flakes called for in the recipe, knowing that I my husband and I can’t hack overly spicy food. Let me tell you, the resulting pasta was just spicy enough. Any more and it would have crossed our heat-tolerance threshold.
   I can’t believe the recipe says to sprinkle more red pepper flakes on top of the finished pasta if desired! This action is only for the hard-core spice junkies among us.
   The heat that was present wasn’t unwelcome, though. The dish is terrific, a perfect blend of shrimp, tomatoes and pasta.
   It whips up quickly on a weeknight but would even work for a casual dinner party. Leftovers warm up beautifully in the microwave.
   The recipe calls for a can of whole San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand. I bought another brand of canned whole plum tomatoes in juice, and crushed them by squeezing the tomatoes in my hands. The tomatoes and the juice already present in the can are both used in the pasta.
   The first step of making the dish is cooking the shrimp in a skillet, then removing the shrimp and setting it aside.
   Thinly-sliced garlic, chopped anchovy fillets, and red pepper flakes (I used half a teaspoon instead of a full teaspoon as the recipe indicates) are put in the skillet, along with the tomatoes, white wine, fresh oregano and salt. The sauce is brought to a simmer and cooked, stirring occasionally, until thickened (we used slightly greater than medium heat.)
   While the sauce is cooking, linguine or bucatini (I used Catelli Smart linguine) is boiled and drained.
   Fresh parsley, the pasta, and the shrimp are put back in the sauce and stirred.
   The pasta is served. We didn’t bother drizzling the servings with olive oil, and we certainly didn’t top them with more red pepper flakes.

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