The Big Valentine’s Day question…to go out to a romantic dinner or to create a romantic evening at home?
Adam and I usually mix it up…usually deciding two or three days before – I know, cutting it close huh?!
This year we think we will be going out – we have one more day to decide – but I wanted to share a recipe that I made last year for our Valentine’s Day dinner at home.
If you do decide to stay in for the big night the last thing you want to do is be in the kitchen for hours on end, trying to make some extravagant dish. You also don’t want to eat something that will pop the buttons of your favorite dress (or suit)! The perfect dinner would be something that is simple and foolproof, yet still looks extremely elegant, that will be light and won’t interfere with your plans for the remainder of the evening 🙂
This Zesty Shrimp Pasta with Spinach checks off both boxes. This recipe is simple to create and is incredibly delicious – did I mention it also looks fabulous? Beautiful fresh shrimp is the main star in this dish, sautéed in a bright citrusy lemon sauce to further enhance its light flavor. Fresh spinach and a touch of Parmigiano-Reggiano are added at the end, softly melting into the shrimp and pasta and creating more depth and complexity to the dish. And speaking of the pasta, instead of using regular spaghetti, which could be heavy and cause you to feel bogged down, I go for gluten-free organic quinoa/corn blend pasta. It is a little lighter and much more guilt-free – I don’t know about you but I plan on saving my Valentine’s Day cheat carbs for dessert!
Look at how easy this recipe is! For your ingredient list, you will need gluten-free organic quinoa and corn blend pasta, lots of delicious fresh shrimp (peeled and deveined), a shallot, garlic, extra-virgin olive oil, lemons, spinach and Parmigiano-Reggiano. For your seasonings you will need kosher salt, cracked black pepper and red pepper flakes. That’s it! Nothing too fancy 🙂
The first thing you will need to do is get the pasta water boiling. While that gets going you can go ahead and mince the shallot and the garlic cloves and set aside.
Next you will need to create the zesty lemon sauce. To do this, whisk together the lemon zest, freshly squeezed lemon juice, extra-virgin olive oil, kosher salt and cracked black pepper in a measuring cup or bowl. Set aside when completed.
During this time I also like to remove the tails from the shrimp before cooking. If you like the elegant presentation of the tails go ahead and keep them on. Adam doesn’t like the tails so I always remove the them – he’s not for anything that slows the eating process down lol. I only keep the tails in the case of grilling and when I cook shrimp as a “finger food” appetizer.
When the pasta water starts roaring, salt the water then add the pasta. The quinoa and corn blend pasta will take about the same time as regular dried pasta to cook, 7-10 minutes – obviously make sure to continuously check the pasta every few minutes so you don’t over cook it. During the time the pasta cooks you will be able to finish the shrimp cooking portion. (You want both to be done around the same time so you can add the cooked pasta to the shrimp and sauce to finish cooking. It will absorb the delicious flavors of the sauce and the whole dish will blend together.)
In a nonstick pan, sauté the shallots in 1 teaspoon of olive oil until softened. Add the garlic and sweat them for 3o seconds to 1 minute. (Make sure to season the shallots with a sprinkle of salt and pepper when you first throw them in the pan. Remember if you season every layer appropriately during the cooking phase, you won’t need to throw a bunch of salt and pepper in at the end, which will just cause everything to taste salty and not flavored.)
Add the shrimp to the pan and season them with kosher salt, cracked pepper and red pepper flakes.
By this time the spaghetti should be just about ready (if it was ready a little earlier then you should drain it – reserving 1 tablespoon of pasta water – and set aside on the stove). Timing is everything with this dish so you want to pasta to be just about cooked as the shrimp is about to be flipped in the pan, if not one minute sooner – the shrimp takes only about 5-6 minutes in total to cook. It’s easier the have the pasta waiting a couple minutes for the shrimp then for the shrimp to be waiting for the pasta. The latter will cause the shrimp to be completely overcooked and stiff as a board, which will not fly on the special day!
After about 2 minutes, flip the shrimp over to cook the other side. The shrimp will tell you when they are ready for the flip by turning pink on the bottom “cooking side” and by beginning to curl up – the top “unflipped” side of the shrimp should still be raw. Allow the shrimp to cook for 1-2 more minutes or until almost cooked through. Shrimp cook very quickly and will continue cooking with the pasta and sauce. Again you do not want to overcook them.
Homestretch time! Turn the heat down to simmer and add the lemon sauce, allowing it to simmer for 30 seconds or so with the shrimp, shallots and garlic. Then add the cooked pasta and stir together for another minute.
Turn off the heat and add the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and fresh spinach to the pan. Stir the contents to enable the sauce to thicken. You will also notice the spinach begin to wilt from the residual heat of the pasta and shrimp…Good things are happening!
Taste the sauce one last time for seasoning and then plate the dish. That’s it! Like I said, this recipe could not be simpler to make. And it is oh-so-good.
Couple this dish with my White Chocolate Cheesecake with Raspberry Coulis (which can be made a couple days in advance) and I’d say you have a winning Valentine’s Day dinner on your hands!
HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!!!
- ½ pound gluten-free organic quinoa/corn blend spaghetti (brand: Ancient Harvest)
- 1 pound fresh (thawed) shrimp, peeled and deveined
- ½ cup minced shallots (1 medium shallot)
- 3 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1-2 cups fresh baby spinach
- 1-2 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano
- red pepper flakes
- kosher salt
- cracked black pepper
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Zest of one lemon
- 3 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1-2 lemons
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon cracked black pepper
- Fill 6-quart pot with water and set on stove to boil on high.
- Mince shallot and garlic cloves. Set aside.
- Whisk together lemon zest, lemon juice, extra-virgin olive oil, ½ teaspoon kosher salt and ½ teaspoon cracked black pepper in a measuring cup or bowl. Set aside.
- OPTIONAL: remove tails from shrimp before cooking.
- Once pasta water begins boiling, salt water then add pasta. Quinoa/corn blend pasta will take about the same time as regular dried pasta to cook, 7-10 minutes - make sure to continuously check pasta every few minutes so you don't over cook it. As pasta cooks you will be able to finish the shrimp cooking portion. (You want both to be done around the same time - with the pasta done a minute earlier - so you can add the cooked pasta to the shrimp and sauce to absorb its flavor).
- In a nonstick pan, sauté minced shallot in 1 teaspoon of olive oil on medium heat until softened. Make sure to season with a sprinkle of salt and pepper when adding to pan.
- Add garlic and sweat for 3o seconds to 1 minute.
- Add shrimp to pan and season them with kosher salt, cracked black pepper and red pepper flakes.
- By this time the spaghetti should be about ready (if it was ready a little earlier then you should drain it - reserving 1 tablespoon of pasta water - and set aside on the stove. If pasta needs a lot more time then wait another minute or so before adding the shrimp to pan - the shrimp takes only about 5-6 minutes in total to cook so you definitely don't want to overcook that!).
- After 2-3 minutes, flip the shrimp over to cook other side. (The shrimp will tell you when they are ready to flip by turning pink on the bottom "cooking side" and by beginning to curl up - the top "un-flipped" portion of the shrimp should still be raw.)
- Allow flipped shrimp to cook for 2 more minutes or until almost cooked through. (Shrimp cook very quickly and will finish cooking with the pasta and sauce. Again, you do not want to overcook them.)
- Turn heat down to simmer and add the lemon sauce mixture, allowing sauce to simmer for 30 seconds or so with the shrimp, shallots and garlic.
- Add the cooked pasta and stir together for another 30 seconds.
- Turn off heat and add the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and fresh spinach to pan. Stir contents for 30 seconds to 1 minute to enable sauce to thicken. You will also see the spinach begin to wilt from the residual heat of the pasta and shrimp. If sauce is too tight, add the tablespoon of pasta water to pan.
- Plate and serve immediately.