Spicy Red Pepper Pasta with Shrimp

Spicy, creamy, peppery, and hot, this whole dish is a buttery take on the comfort of shrimp and noodles. As always, I give you the recipe straight at the top of the post and share my notes, photos, and tips at the bottom. Enjoy!


INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb uncooked shrimp; I prefer large, deveined shrimp (usually frozen)

  • 9 oz Red Chilli Pasta (I discovered this brand in Italy)

  • 1 red bell pepper, diced

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

  • 1/4 cup Parmesan, grated

  • 2 tablespoons flour

  • Fresh arugula, kale, or spinach to serve

  • Salt

  • Pepper

Red Pepper Butter:

  • 1 cup butter, room temperature

  • 1 fresh red bell pepper

  • 1 jarred, fire-roasted red bell pepper

  • 3 cloves garlic

  • 1 lemon, juiced and zested

  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika

  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder

  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

DIRECTIONS

  • Start by thawing the frozen shrimp, throwing them in a colander fitted within a large bowl of cool water.

  • Start a large pot of water on the stove, generously salted, for the pasta.

  • In a food processor, combine all of the ingredients for the red pepper butter. I typically start with the peppers at the bottom, then the butter, and might melt a half stick of the butter to help add liquid so it combines better. I also tend to fire-roast the fresh bell pepper to add a little layer of smokiness from the blackened peel. You can always add more garlic, more cayenne, salt, chili powder, paprika, or even a variety of fresh green herbs to modify the flavor exactly to your liking. Once all ingredients are well blended, set aside in a container. You can keep this for a week or freeze some portions for up to a month.

  • Cook the pasta as directed; when you drain it, make sure to save 1/2 cup of pasta water.

  • In a large saute pan over medium heat add a small spoonful of the red pepper butter. Once melted, add the diced red bell pepper and stir to coat the pieces. Cook for several minutes until the pepper has started to soften and lightly brown in some spots.

  • In the same pan, pushing the diced bell pepper to the side, add a large spoonful of the butter to the pan. When fully melted, add the shrimp. Flip the shrimps after 1-3 minutes, when shrimps have started to develop a deep color but have not shrunk. You want to move quickly here so as not to overcook the shrimp.

  • Once flipped, turn off the heat. Pour into your serving dish. (Alternatively, form a well in the ingredients if you're lazy like me, you just run the risk of slightly overcooking shrimp in the next steps). Add additional butter, more than enough to coat everything in the sauté pan. Go heavy if you like.

  • Once all the butter has melted, whisk in the flour to form a light roux. Then pour the pasta water and heavy cream. Stir to combine and thicken.

  • Once combined, add the pasta into the saute pan. Combine and add more butter as needed to get the right coating on the pasta. If you set aside shrimp and peppers, add those back into the pan. Stir to combine the entire dish.

  • Serve immediately, with parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper.


ADDITIONAL NOTES


I typically start with the peppers at the bottom, then the butter, and might melt a half stick of the butter to help add liquid so it combines better. I also tend to fire-roast the fresh bell pepper to add a little layer of smokiness from the blackened peel. You can always add more garlic, more cayenne, salt, chili powder, or even a variety of fresh green herbs to modify the flavor exactly to your liking. Once all ingredients are well blended, set aside in a container. You can keep this for a week or freeze some portions for up to a month.

I first discovered the Morelli brand while studying abroad in Florence, Italy. The city's must-see Mercato Centrale has two levels: on the first level there are individual vendor stalls, small cafe-fronts, and market merchandise (independent butchers, fishers, farmers, and more abound next to merchants selling endless varieties of pasta, trinkets, souvenirs, wines, limoncello, etc). On the second level, the market has brought in some of the culture-defining culinary presences to provide pasta, pizza, wine, cheese, and pastry dishes to enjoy with seats near cafeteria-style.


The exception to that is that above the central staircase in between the two main sides is the small, bright, reliable commercial presence of Eataly. On a whim while trying to curate a selection of foods to bring back for my family to enjoy, I grabbed the peperoncino rosso and nero di seppia varieties of the linguine. I did this overlooking the Tartufo (truffle), Limone (lemon), and Aglio e Basilico (garlic and basil) varieties. Dear reader, these versions of their pastas are still on my wish list to try, I just need to figure out what to do with them!


As an aside: I know, my Italian friends, that shrimp and noodles are not really the proper way to do things. Italian-Americans have been cooking shrimp scampi-style in place of langoustines for a near-century, now, though, so this is not proclaiming to be purely Italian. In fact, I'm sure the volume of butter and using a roux for the sauce might have Italian ancestors wildly gesticulating from beyond the grave. It tastes good, alright! I dream of this dish.

Some of my favorite colors: red and black. The sweet red bell peppers, the creamy butter, and heat from the garlic, cayenne pepper, and paprika really work together to layer the rich flavors of this dish.

I absolutely cheesed up my plate before I photographed because I'd forgotten I couldn't just jump straight into eating it!


As always, feel free to add more salt, pepper, chili, cayenne, etc. This dish is so good. Alternatively, you can bake yourself a nice sundried tomato boule (recipe incoming) and use this butter to create drool-worthy sandwiches and grilled cheeses.