shrimp scampi with whole peeled tomatoes + basil

I added a few things to a favorite shrimp pasta staple. 

I looove shrimp. I love it in pasta, grilled on skewers, alone, with teriyaki sauce, and any other way I have yet to try. 

But I didn't always love shrimp nor like it. Shrimp cocktail aka cold, cooked shrimp served with a ubiquitous red tomato sauce (cocktail sauce) never fails to be served at holiday parties. It terrified me growing up. I never, ever even dared try it - it looked so foreign and unappealing. Did I miss out on something? Definitely.

My Dad was always a huge advocate of shrimp cocktail, and he too loves shrimp scampi. He cooks it with lots of garlic and lemon and white wine, serving it over linguine or angel hair. I wanted to add a few ingredients to the original dish to make it a little bit more unique. 

For this recipe I used whole campari tomatoes. You can find them sold on the vine or in a little plastic box. Campari tomatoes are small, very juicy, and sweeter than a lot of tomatoes.

Most of the time, I just don't feel like cooking the tomatoes or am short with time so I will use San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes. They always do the trick. Follow the same steps by leaving the juices from the can and plopping them into the sauce. Then crush them with your wooden spoon.

I also wanted to try using cipollini onions. I admit these onions are a little harder to find in the supermarket, and I stumbled upon them at Whole Foods shopping for work this week. They caramelize quickly and add a serious flavor profile to the scampi. These onions are sweet, mild, and let out a beautiful aroma different from your traditional yellow or sweet onion. 

A few months ago I had one of the best shrimp dishes at Burma Super Star on Clement street in the Inner Richmond. This very small restaurant fills fast and packs patrons to the brim; wait for a table may surpass an hour and a half on peak dinner hours or weekend evenings. But! They do offer take-out.

If you are willing to wait, which I highly suggest as you will not be disappointed, you will leave with a full, happy belly. The long menu displays the wide array of flavors used in Burmese dishes, and Burma Super Star provides a fantastic rendition. I tried a shrimp stew with a coconut-pumpkiny base and huge chunks of pumpkin. It was spicy, sweet, and just packed with flavor. Some day I will attempt to recreate the dish...

For now, I offer you this tangy + second-helping-kind of shrimp pasta dish. Enjoy!

shrimp scampi with whole peeled tomatoes + basil

Serves 6

Ingredients:

1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined

2 tbsp unsalted butter

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 lb. dry linguine

2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

1 cipollini onion, thinly sliced

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 cup dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio

6 campari tomatoes on the vine; or 1  28-oz can of whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes sans juices

1 lemon, freshly squeezed; plus 1 lemon, thinly sliced

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, ribboned

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

 

Directions:

If using fresh tomatoes: With a small pairing knife, mark an X on the bottom of each tomato. Boil in salted water for about 5-7 minutes, just until the skin at the X begins to fold away from the flesh. Let the tomatoes cool in an ice bath. Peel the skin off and set them aside.

Cook pasta according to directions. Once it reaches al dente drain and rinse with cold water to stop cooking.

In a deep sauce pan or dutch oven melt the butter and olive oil. Add the onions, garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes. Sauté until translucent, about 3-5 minutes. Add shrimp and cook until pink, about another 5 minutes. Remove shrimp from pan and set aside on a plate. Cover to keep warm.

Add lemon juice, lemon slices, tomatoes, and salt + pepper. With the back of a wooden spoon, crush the tomatoes allowing some juices to pour into the sauce and break up the tomato flesh. (Seeds are OK!) Bring the contents to a boil then turn the heat down to simmer for about 15 minutes so some liquids evaporate. When sauce is ready, add the shrimp back to the pan. Stir. Turn off the heat. Add the pasta to the dish and stir so sauce is distributed evenly. Garnish with basil ribbons. Serve immediately.

You can always add cheese. I suggest to garnish this dish with parmesan.