Thursday, August 23, 2012
I usually make a version of this dish during weeknights. It always involves sautéed garlic, shrimp, and hot peppers. Sometimes it gains a Mexican flair and I add cilantro and lime juice and serve it over rice with some salsa, and sometimes it gets an Italian flair and I serve it in tomato sauce over pasta. It takes a very short time and it is very tasty.
For this recipe I used fresh tomatoes to create a very quick sauce. I blanched the tomatoes to remove the skins and then briefly cooked them before adding them to the shrimp. To save time, you can use a can of diced tomatoes instead.
The recipe also calls for two chili peppers. You can reduce the spiciness here by either de-seeding the chili peppers of your choice (or using very mild chili peppers like poblano), or using a sprinkle of red pepper flakes to taste. Or if you're adventurous, you can use more chili peppers and leave seeds in.
The origins of this dish are not entirely clear. And there isn't an accompanying story as interesting as that of the puttanesca sauce. In culinary terms, fra diavolo (which is Italian for the devil friar or brother) refers to a spicy tomato-based dish incorporating shellfish. There was also a somewhat unruly man named Michele Pezza whose nickname was Fra Diavolo. He inspired, inter alia, a French opera of the same name and several works by Alexandre Dumas, and perhaps also this dish.
Pasta with Shrimp Fra Diavolo
1/2 lb (227 g) whole wheat spaghetti
4 plum tomatoes
3 tbsp olive oil, divided
1/2 red onion, chopped
2 small chili peppers (or to taste, seeds optional), chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lb (227 g) raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tbsp parsley
1 tbsp basil
salt and ground black pepper to taste
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and cook the pasta to slightly before al dente. Drain, reserving about 1/2 cup of the water. Mix the pasta with a bit of oil to keep it from drying out.
2. Bring another pot of water to a boil. Add the tomatoes, and blanch for 2-3 minutes. Remove with tongs and let cool slightly. Once the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, peel off the skin with a pairing knife, discard the skins and dice the tomatoes. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a saucepan, add the tomatoes and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
3. In the meantime, in a separate large tall-sided pan, heat the remaining 2 tbsp olive oil on medium-high heat. Add onion and the chili peppers, sauté until softened slightly, about 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic, and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds more. Add the shrimp and sauté quickly until the shrimp is fully cooked, about 5 minutes. Add the lemon juice, and cook until the juice is evaporated, about 1 minute. Add the cooked diced tomatoes, parsley, and basil. Once the sauce starts to simmer, season to taste with salt and pepper. Lower the heat to medium, add the pasta along with the reserved water to the pan. Mix well. Bring back to a simmer, and cook until the liquid has thickened slightly, about 2-3 minutes more. Serve.