Pasta has always been a favorite of mine, since before I can accurately remember things. There are pictures of me as a toddler in a high chair making a horrid mess of spaghetti with meat sauce (which, incidentally, is the first meal I ever learned to make!). I’ve always loved pasta, no matter its shape and size, and I think I was one of the few that refused to get on the low-carb bandwagon when that rolled around in the late 1990’s. Give up my beloved pasta? Never!
Since moving to New York, pasta has been one of my best palate expanding experiments. I’ve tried all manner of the different shapes, of course, but more importantly, it’s become a vehicle for eating my vegetables on a consistent basis. Sure, I’ll always love the rich sauces of tomato, meat and/or cream. But I’ve come to appreciate lighter sauces with less cheese and more greens, and occasionally seafood.
I’ve mentioned the endless variety of toppings, but what about the pasta itself? I would say until about a year ago, I had tried what I’ll call the big three: regular semolina, whole wheat, and spinach. I like them all, and I do try to incorporate more whole what pasta into our diet. But every time I walked past the artisanal pasta section of my grocery store, I saw a black pasta: squid ink. It looked intriguing, but I had no idea what to do with it.
Enter Jeffrey Saad, the cook and TV personality who, in my humble opinion, should have won his season of “The Next Food Network Star” (more on that in another post). He released a cookbook earlier this year and offers a recipe for squid ink fettuccine. It was the first recipe I made from the book.
I was very excited to try this black pasta with which childhood Julie wouldn’t have even shared a room. The shrimp-chorizo sauce was fantastic, but I am not sure what the pasta is all about. I couldn’t really taste anything definitive about it that differentiated it from regular semolina pasta. Now it’s true that I’ve never tasted squid ink, so maybe I just didn’t know what to look for in flavor. It also could be that the strong flavor of the chorizo overwhelmed it. But I was a tad unimpressed. It was still an enjoyable dish overall, but I’m left scratching my head over the squid ink part.
Question: have you ever tasted squid ink pasta? Do you think it has a distinct flavor? How did you prepare it? Thanks!
Source: Global Kitchen, by Jeffrey Saad
20 jumbo shrimp, with their shells
3 tbs olive oil
1/3 cup shredded carrots (I just thin sliced mine)
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
Kosher salt to taste
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup canned diced tomatoes
Fresh cracked black pepper to taste
1 pound squid ink fettuccine (I could only find 12 oz packages, so I scaled the recipe accordingly)
1 tsp finely chopped garlic
1/4 pound raw chorizo, casings removed if necessary
1 tbs unsalted butter
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Peel and devein the shrimp. Reserve the shells.
In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, add 2 tbs olive oil. Add the shrimp shells, carrots, shallots and salt. Cook until deep golden, about 5 minutes.
Add the white wine and simmer over high heat until the wine is reduced by half. Add the tomatoes and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
Transfer the mixture to a blender and puree until smooth. Alternately, you can use an immersion blender to do this. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl and reserve the liquid. Made sure to press on the solids in the strainer to get all the juices out. Discard the solids.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to package directions.
In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, add the remaining 1 tbs olive oil. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper and add to the pan. Make sure to leave at least 2 inches between the shrimp so they don’t over crowd and steam. Cook in two separate batches if necessary. Pull the shrimp out when they are firm and cooked through. To the same pan, add the garlic and chorizo. Cook for about 2 minutes, then add the tomato puree and simmer for a few minutes to reduce and thicken.
Pull the pasta once it is al dente and drop it directly into the sauce. Add a little pasta cooking water and simmer the past in the sauce for 1-2 minutes. Turn off the heat and toss in the shrimp and butter. Stir until the butter is evenly melted. Top with parsley and serve immediately.