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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Southern (Italian) Accent:

Sicilian Inspired Shrimp Pasta
It is a rare occasion when I get to spend time with just my parents and sister.  No spouses or kids, just our original Zachary foursome.  We joke that the only time this happens is for funerals, so when we are able to spend some quality time together for a happy occasion, we cherish it.  As it happens, we had such a gathering in Charlotte earlier this month.  My father had won a wine tasting in a silent auction at the International House gala.  The prize had been donated by Sara Guterbock of the Mutual Wine Distributing Company.

A tour of southern Italian wines was to be the theme of the evening, so without hesitation, I immediately wanted to figure out what we were going to eat on this epic journey through southern Italy.  Since my own travels had not taken me to the tip of the Italian boot, I had to do a bit of research before deciding on a menu.  I knew that seafood was a must and was pleased to discover that sardines and anchovies were popular choices in the region.  Sadly, no one else shared my enthusiasm for these fishy delicacies, so I opted for the ever popular shrimp instead.  Of course, I did sneak some anchovies into the pasta dish for kicks and giggles, as you will see in the recipe below.  Another interesting discovery about Sicilian food was that instead of using cheese as a garnish for seafood pasta, they instead opt for crushed toasted almonds and/or toasted bread crumbs.  To round out the buffet table, the guests contributed an assortment of Italian cured meats and cheeses, arancini, caponata, olives, grissini, and canoli for dessert.

The wine tasting consisted of two whites and six reds.  Sara led us on a magical journey through Basilicata, Calabria, Puglia, Sicilia, Sardegna, and Campania.  The history of the various wineries, grapes and geographical regions was fascinating and I was once again bombarded with the enormity and complexity of the wine world.  My favorite white of the evening was the Alovini 2012 Greco from Basilicata and if I had to pick a favorite red,  I would go with the Cantale 2012 Primitivo from Puglia.
Our tour of southern Italy
Sara Guterbock, CS, CSW, ISS, DWS
Sommelier and Wine Educator,  Mutual Distributing Company, N.C.
Now THIS is my kind of potluck!

Of course the best wines are those that are shared with friends, and this evening was filled with them both.  In the future, when I make my Sicilian inspired shrimp pasta, I will fondly remember my virtual tour to southern Italy and the people, food and wine that made this an evening to be passionate about.

Sicilian Inspired Shrimp Pasta:
 Serves: 4-6

1 lb medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup ground almonds
1/4 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
16 oz of short pasta, such as gemelli or campanelle
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 anchovy fillets, drained and chopped
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 1/2 teaspoon garlic, grated on micro plane, about four cloves
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup of dry white wine
1/4 cup shrimp stock
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup chopped parsley


1) Peel and devein shrimp, reserve shrimp and prepare Quick Shrimp Stock.  Reserve shelled shrimp. Follow instructions below:
Quick Shrimp Stock:
1) Place shells is a medium saucepan, lightly coated with olive oil .
2) Cook over medium-high heat until shells are bright pink in color
3) Add 2 1/2-3 cups water, enough to just cover shells, a halved lemon and about four garlic cloves and simmer for 30-40 minutes
4) Strain shells from liquid (You will end up with about 1 cup of stock)

2) Heat a small, non-stick saut√© pan over medium heat.  Add ground almonds and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant and toasty.  About 3-4 minutes.  Remove almonds from pan, set aside. Repeat process with the breadcrumbs.  Combine almonds and panko and set aside.

3) Cook pasta according to package directions

4) While pasta is cooking,  heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large, high-sided skillet.  Add the anchovies and cook, pressing down with the back of a wooden spoon, until anchovies are almost completely dissolved.  Stir in red pepper flakes and garlic and cook for one more minute.

5) Add lemon zest, juice, wine and stock.  Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer.  Simmer sauce for 5 minutes, the whisk in the butter and parsley.

6) Add reserved shrimp to sauce, stirring to coat with the sauce.  Cook until shrimp is just cooked through, about 3-4 minutes. 

7) Combine cooked and drained pasta to sauce and toss to combine.  Place pasta in individual serving dishes and top with the almond-panko mixture.

Sauce is ready for the pasta

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