Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

The night before we left for the beach, I got out the scissors to harvest some basil to make pesto to take along with us. I’m milking these basil plants as long as I can by cutting off leaves and new growth weekly so I can hold off the inevitable flowering. Since they’re in pots they’re not going to get too big. Each harvesting gives me about 1 to 1-1/2 cups of pesto.

I had no ideas about what I might do with the pesto, but I figured I could always make pasta. And sure enough, when Jim’s uncle gave us a huge bag of fresh shrimp (heads and all), I knew pasta was on the menu that night. I saved the heads and shells for my friend Scott to use as a stock base for the delicious clam chowder he makes every summer for the clan — this year, about 45 of us. He sweats under the relentless sun while clamming in the  low-tide mud of the lagoon and we get the rewards —  two huge pots of chowder.

I’m sorry to say that making pasta is never an exercise in measuring for me. I’m guessing at these ingredient amounts. At the beach I made enough for about 10-12 people, but I’m estimating here for about 2-4 people, depending on your appetite and love of leftovers. Sorry, I can’t get any more specific. When in doubt, use more ingredients.

One tip: don’t add all the cooked pasta at once to the pan in case you made too much pasta for the amount of sauce you have. If you do have leftover cooked pasta, toss it with some olive oil and store in the refrigerator to use later in the week.

shrimp pesto

Shrimp Pesto Pasta

  • Olive oil to coat the pan
  • 1 large onion, at least, cut in half and sliced
  • Optional – 1 large zucchini, cut in quarters lengthwise and sliced — I had some in the refrigerator so I used it. You could add any vegetable you think would enhance the dish, like asparagus or broccoli.
  • Garlic – a few cloves, minced or sliced
  • 1 large tomato, chopped, or grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half or quarters, or chopped sundried tomatoes (go lighter on the sundrieds since they are more intensely flavored)
  • Shrimp, minus heads and shells, cleaned, left whole or cut into large pieces – buy American only, don’t support Asian slave labor!
  • 1/4 cup or so of white wine
  • Optional – cream or milk, if you want a creamy pesto sauce
  • Pesto — add Parmesan cheese to it if you haven’t already
  • Reserved pasta water
  • A few Tbsp of butter
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 to 1 pound of pasta — fettuccine, linguine or whatever is on hand

Start heating your pasta water until it comes to a boil. Then add pasta, stirring a good amount at the beginning so it doesn’t stick.

Add olive oil to your heated pan. Saute onions (and any other vegetables) over low heat until soft. Add garlic and saute until it starts to smell good and turn a bit golden. Then add chopped tomatoes and salt. When tomatoes have “melted” a bit, add shrimp and saute a few minutes.

Add wine to pan, let it reduce a bit and then add milk or cream, if using, and let it reduce further.

Reserve some pasta water before draining your pasta. Meanwhile, add and stir in pesto to your pan. Taste for seasoning. Then add your drained pasta and mix it all up good, adding pasta water if you need more sauce. If feeling indulgent, add a few Tbsp of butter and mix in before serving.

Make a salad and some garlic bread, pour some wine and enjoy this pasta.

5 thoughts on “Shrimp Pesto Pasta

  1. Patty says:

    I was lucky enough to be one of the 10-12 people that Deirdre cooked this for and it was delicious! We were spoiled that night….we played volleyball while Deidre cleaned all the shrimp and made this awesome dish.

    1. deirdrereid says:

      Aw, thanks, Patty. I was lucky to have Maggie and Stephanie hanging out with me while I did it all . We discussed life, love and food — best way to pass the time.

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