Spicing up a platter of penne and shrimp Entertaining: A tomato sauce enhanced with red pepper sparks pasta with seafood.

November 01, 1998|By Betty Rosbottom | Betty Rosbottom,LOS ANGELES TIMES SYNDICATE

My husband and I are only moderately competent when it comes to computers, but the students at the college where my spouse teaches are whizzes. So, a few weeks ago when we needed to have a new program installed in our computer, we asked a gifted young sophomore to come and help us. When we inquired about his hourly rates, he responded that a home-cooked meal was all he wanted. I was delighted to take care of this request and tried to plan a meal that would be more enticing than those offered in the school's cafeteria.

I decided on a main course of penne with shrimp in a spicy tomato sauce and offered that along with warm crusty ciabatta bread and a salad of mixed greens in a shallot vinaigrette sauce. For dessert, we had a peach pie mounded with whipped cream.

Our young guest ate with gusto and enjoyed every course, but his favorite dish was the penne. I prepared a spicy tomato sauce seasoned with red pepper flakes, basil, orange zest and juice and combined that with tube-shaped pasta and shrimp. Grated Asiago cheese and chopped fresh basil garnished the plates.

This pasta is an ideal dish to serve when entertaining, especially on a busy weeknight. It took me only a few minutes to assemble the sauce, and while it simmered, I cooked the penne. This dish is also quite versatile. For instance, this recipe yields four generous portions, perfect for a sit-down supper like the one I prepared, but it can be increased easily to serve a crowd at a buffet. And when the shrimp are omitted, this entree makes a fine vegetarian selection.

Penne with Shrimp and Spicy Tomato Sauce

Serves 4

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup finely chopped onions

1/2 cup finely diced ( 1/4 inch) carrots

2 teaspoons chopped garlic

2 teaspoons dried basil

1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes (see Note)

4 teaspoons salt, plus more if needed

2 (28-ounce) cans Italian style tomatoes, drained and coarsely chopped

2 teaspoons grated orange zest (color portion of rind)

1 1/2 cups orange juice

2/3 cup dry white wine

1 pound penne or other tube-shaped pasta

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

24 large shrimp (1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds), peeled and deveined

1/3 cup shredded Asiago cheese

1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, for garnish, optional

Heat oil in large, heavy skillet over medium heat. When hot, add onions and carrots and saute, stirring constantly, to soften vegetables slightly, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and saute and stir 1 minute more.

Stir in dried basil, red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon salt, tomatoes, orange zest, orange juice and wine. Bring mixture to simmer. Reduce heat and cook, uncovered, until vegetables are tender and most, but not all, liquid has evaporated, 20 to 30 minutes. When done, remove from heat and cover to keep warm.

Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add 3 teaspoons salt and penne and cook until pasta is al dente (tender to the bite), about 12 minutes. Drain well. Return along with butter to pan in which pasta was cooked. Toss well. Cover pot and set aside.

Bring tomato sauce to simmer over medium heat. Add shrimp and cook, stirring, until shrimp are curled and pink, about 3 minutes. Add sauce and shrimp to pot with penne and stir well. Taste and season with more salt if needed.

Mound pasta on heated platter or in large bowl. Sprinkle with cheese and garnish with fresh basil. Serve immediately.

Note: For less spicy taste, use 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes.

Pub Date: 11/01/98

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