If I made you dinner in 2010 there is a 70% chance you came over and ate ravioli. Not just any ravioli, homemade shrimp ravioli.
Since I was barely employed and had a lot of free time on my hands, I’d spend the day wandering from Reading Terminal Market for shrimp and to the Italian Market for cheese and canned tomatoes. The long walk helped counteract the copious amount of wine I’d serve with dinner. After hunting for ingredients I’d cover every inch of the kitchen counter with flour to make fresh pasta and fold chopped cooked shrimp into fluffy ricotta for ravioli filling. It was amazing, and time consuming. But I didn’t really have anything else going on, so why not.
I’d usually follow this decadent dinner up with a boozy dessert drink. Dirty Girl Scouts are supposed to be taken in shot form but in college my roommates and I drank them in larger quantities. It took me a while to shake that habit. So not only were you coming over for a heavy homemade meal but you’d be stuck in bed for much of the next morning with a creme de menthe hangover.
I don’t really have time to roll out fresh pasta and the number of weekday hangovers I allot myself are pretty low, so this meal isn’t really happening on the regular now. But why should I deny myself the delicious combination of pasta, shrimp and ricotta. Just gotta adjust a few things. I immediately nixed the homemade pasta for little shells. They are so much easier and the shells catch bits of sauce and cheese just like ravioli filling.
Then since it has been so warm this week (die winter, don’t ever come back) I swapped a spinach and parsley dressing for the tomato cream sauce. The first time I tried this dish it was a disaster because I thought, “A little parsley is good, a lot will be better.” No, no it was not. A full bunch of parsley whirring in my food processor completely overpowered the baby spinach and made the dressing taste like grass. Like actual grass, yuck.
But dialing down the parsley and bumping up the spinach made the sauce earthy and light without making me feel like I was eating a lawn. Subbing in basil for the parsley would also be delicious, but I don’t keep basil in my fridge as much as I do parsley. Whenever I buy basil it immediately wilts. Parsley on the other hand seems to live in my fridge forever and costs less than two dollars.
Lemon zest and juice, go a long way in cutting through the herby flavors and olive oil helps loosen up the puree. I also save some of the pasta cooking water to make things more saucy when the dressing meets the pasta.
Since I was heating up the oven anyway to roast shrimp(my favorite full-proof way to cook them) I couldn’t resist filling the pan with some impulse bought asparagus. I chopped the long stalks into pieces similar in size to the pasta. If you wanted it to deconstruct this dish further and make it even simpler then you could forgo the roasting and drop the shrimp and asparagus in with the pasta. Wait till the pasta is almost done and then add the asparagus and shrimp and cook until the shrimp turn pink and asparagus bright green. I like the flavor of roasting better but sometimes one less dish wins out.
Then before draining the pasta I grab a cup of the starchy pasta water, it is the final ingredient for the sauce. I’m terrible at gauging bowl sizes so first I tried to combine the shells, shrimp and asparagus in a small glass bowl but quickly had to upgrade and dirty a bigger bowl. After pouring on the green sauce you stir in enough pasta water to make things saucy and the shells get coated in the spinach mix. I usually use about a half cup of water.
To serve, you can either mix in the ricotta and then serve up bowlfuls of the pasta but I like letting people add their own ricotta. You can then add as much or as little as you want and the ricotta doesn’t break up as much. If you stir it in with the sauce and pasta water then the ricotta becomes a part of the sauce. Plopping it on top after makes the ricotta more of a stand alone ingredient. Either way I am adding as much ricotta as I humanly can to these shells and shrimp.
- ½ lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1/2 lb of asparagus
- 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
- 2 tsp salt, divided
- 1 tsp pepper divided
- 1/4 cup parsley, roughly chopped
- 4 cups packed spinach
- 1 tbs lemon zest
- 1 tbs lemon juice
- 1/2 lb medium pasta shells or other small shape like farfalle
- 8 ounces ricotta cheese
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Peel and devein shrimp.
- Remove the tough ends of the asparagus and chop the stalks into small pieces. You want them to be similar in size to your pasta.
- Toss the shrimp and asparagus with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp of pepper.
- Spread the shrimp and asparagus out on the parchment lined pan and roast in the oven until the shrimp are pink and asparagus bright green, about 10-12 minutes.
- While your shrimp are roasting, make the green sauce.
- Using a food processor or you can use a knife, roughly chop the parsley and spinach. You don't want it to be fully pureed but you want the parsley and spinach broken down. A food processor will get you a smoother sauce. Add the rest of the olive oil, lemon zest, juice, and 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp of pepper to the mixture and stir until combined.
- Cook 1/2 pound of pasta in heavily salted boiling water. Before draining the pasta reserve 1 cup of the starchy cooking water.
- In a large bowl toss the pasta with the shrimp and asparagus.
- Stir in the spinach sauce and then add enough pasta water(I usually use a half cup) to make the sauce coat each shell.
- You can then either add the ricotta to the pasta and mix it to break down the cheese and make it part of the sauce. Or you can serve the pasta and dollop the ricotta on the individual servings to keep the ricotta from breaking down into the sauce.