Shrimp and spaghetti are a staple in my southern kitchen, especially at this time of year. The sauce in my version of this classic comfort dish has a freshness that is welcomed after heavier winter dishes that shrimp are the perfect accompaniment to.
I was never given a handwritten recipe for shrimp and spaghetti. I was told how to do it in great detail, and then I wrote down what I remembered. Although I had a better memory at the time and probably wrote the instructions pretty well, I wasn’t given the exact amount of any of the ingredients.
Years passed, and I realized how much of this and how much of that goes into this dish. However, the truth is that my recipe allows for some improvisation. As long as you stick to the basic bones, you can use whatever you have on hand, like tomatoes and tomato sauce.
Related: Travel south to the “Seafood Capital of Alabama” with these delicious, savory marinated shrimp.
This shrimp and spaghetti recipe takes me back to a point in my life when I started to branch out and try new cuisines like Indian and Thai food and sushi. Up until this point, I had mostly eaten what I ate as a child.
The joy of learning to cook what I not Food as a child made me more confident in the kitchen and I wanted to share my newfound passion with everyone. Soon, Sunday brunches and casual dinners for family and friends became a regular occurrence in my home. In fact, I served these shrimp and spaghetti when I had my first meeting, along with Chianti in these little basket-wrapped bottles.
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I am not saying that I have ever considered shrimp exotic or even something different from the norm. I’m from the south so I grew up with shrimp and seafood at home. But we don’t have shrimp at my house how are they have shrimp in Bayou-la-Batre. Don’t get me wrong, my mom made a great shrimp soup, but it never occurred to her to put shrimp in spaghetti.
You won’t need anything more than a simple green salad and crispy bread to complete this meal. Whatever you serve as a side dish, I promise you’ll love my shrimp and spaghetti.
Tomatoes and tomato sauce
I was told to use 2 cans of tomato sauce and 1 can of tomatoes. There are so many tomato sauces to choose from in grocery stores today – just pick what you like. I added a fancy jar of pizza sauce to my latest batch of shrimp and spaghetti – it was delicious. I also had a couple of great greenhouse-grown tomatoes, so I included those as well. The most important thing is to stick to the same ratio of sauce and tomatoes 2:1.
Use small to medium sized wild-caught shrimp, skinned and stripped. The only dance you need to master for this recipe is when to add spaghetti and shrimp to the sauce.
It varies from person to person when the shrimp is perfectly cooked. The truth is that shrimp will continue to cook even after you take this dish off the heat. Don’t be afraid. Just taste the shrimp as soon as you feel they’re done and lower the heat once you’re satisfied.
Another thing I learned during my time at Bayou La Batre is to soak peeled and peeled shrimp in milk while you slice and cook everything for that dish (or any shrimp dish for that matter). Let them soak for about an hour if possible. The milk rids the shrimp of any “fancy” flavor.
Feel free to use any type of spaghetti you prefer, be it traditional, gluten-free, or grain-free. But go for spaghetti, not thicker linguine or thinner angel hair pasta. You want the noodles to absorb the flavor of the sauce and still hold on.
Cook the spaghetti until al dente because the pasta will cook a little more once you add it to the sauce. Finally, briefly rinse the cooked noodles. You don’t want them to chill the sauce too much when combined.
As with many other shrimp dishes, celery plays an important role in this recipe. Although carefully cooked without any noticeable crunch, it adds a bright, extra flavor to a more typical red sauce.
Use a sharp knife when slicing the celery so there are no strings. With some care, you can prevent this from happening.
Most often I have fresh herbs in my kitchen. I’m reaching for them, but it doesn’t really matter if you’re using dried ones. I usually use more than required (as with garlic). Use as many as you wish. (Remember: you can always add more, but you can’t subtract.)
Recipe: Gulf Coast Shrimp and Spaghetti
- 1 large bell pepper (any color), de-seeded and chopped
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 3 celery stalks, chopped
- 1-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 cans of tomato sauce
- 1 can of tomatoes
- 1-2 teaspoons of sugar
- 2 pounds small to medium sized wild-caught shrimp, cleaned and cleaned
- 1 pound spaghetti
- fresh basil
- fresh parsley
- Olive oil (or oil of choice) for sautéing onions, peppers and celery.
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Optional: Parmesan and red pepper flakes
Sauté the onion in 1-2 tablespoons of oil over low heat until very soft and almost translucent. Add the bell peppers and celery and continue cooking until they are soft and the onions are lightly browned.
Add jars of tomato sauce and tomatoes, 1 teaspoon sugar, minced garlic and some greens.
Cook over very low heat for 30 minutes.*
* If you are also cooking on a gas stove, you may need to turn off the heat for a few minutes to prevent the sauce from burning while boiling. (It’s ideal to have your sauce cook long and slow to give the flavors time to combine.)
Adjust seasonings (herbs and sugar) and salt and pepper to taste.
While the sauce is simmering, boil the spaghetti (according to package instructions), rinse briefly, and set aside.
Rinse the shrimp in a colander and set aside.
Add spaghetti and shrimp to sauce. Cook over very low heat until the shrimp are done.
To serve, add a hefty pinch of Parmesan, some red pepper flakes for a spicy kick, and some of the best olive oil you have.
Start with one teaspoon of sugar. If your sauce is too sour/sour, add a little more. I’ve never had to add more than 2 heaping teaspoons of sugar, but adjust to taste if needed.
The rule of thumb for serving shrimp is 1/2 pound per person, but that rule doesn’t really apply here. This is a hearty dish – you can easily feed 6 people with 2 pounds of shrimp.
If using fresh herbs, reserve a little to add after serving.
Other Southern Bibi recipes worth trying:
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