I keep a couple of bags of shrimp in the freezer just so I can make this recipe on days I’m trying to avoid the grocery store, like senior citizen discount Tuesdays. I also make it because it’s so good. Now, to produce this on a whim requires just a little forethought, which takes some of the whim out of it. But that pot of basil in the window planted back in November is still sprouting leaves like crazy, and I usually have a pint of cherry tomatoes needing to be used up, and the few pantry items are very basic, so there you have it: Shrimp and Basil Pasta on a whim.
This recipe is adapted – but only slightly, it’s pretty perfect as is – from Great Food Fast, and the authors must have loved it too, because they put a photo of it on the cover. My copy of the book opens naturally to page 157, where the shrimp dish is to be found, because I’ve made it so much that the spine cracks in that spot. I find linguine particularly challenging to eat because it defies being wrapped around a fork, and this rather thin yet very flavorful sauce offers little grip. But it is delicious, and the whole reason why stain sticks exist. Have plenty of napkins ready anyway. (And I’m buying some of these.)
Shrimp and Basil Pasta (slightly adapted from Great Food Fast, from Everyday Food magazine and the kitchens of Martha Stewart Living, © 2007 by Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, New York)
1 1/2 pounds of medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (Please don’t leave those silly tails on. Why do restaurants do that?)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 cups water
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 pound linguine
A handful of fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces, plus extra for garnish
1. Put a large pot of salted water on to boil for cooking the linguine.
2. Spread the peeled and deveined shrimp on a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Blot dry, then season both sides with salt and pepper to taste. Pour about 3 tablespoons of olive oil into a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and cook until opaque in the center, turning occasionally. This process is quick, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a large plate.
3. Return the skillet to the heat, and add a little more olive oil (not quite a tablespoon). Toss in the minced garlic and stir quickly for about 30 seconds or less. Don’t let the garlic burn! Pour in the canned tomatoes with their juice, along with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to a simmer and let the sauce cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until some of the liquid has evaporated and the tomatoes are soft. Take the skillet off the heat, and stir in the halved cherry or grape tomatoes.
4. While the sauce simmers, cook the linguine according to package directions.
5. When the pasta is done, drain it and return it to its cooking pot. Add the tomato sauce, cooked shrimp, and pieces of fresh basil, and stir. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve, garnishing each plate with more fresh basil over the top.