I came up with the accompanying recipe one Wednesday at about 7 p.m. while staring down a hungry family and a mostly empty refrigerator, and with minimal energy in my tank for cooking after a long workday. This pasta, in a lemony basil pesto studded with plump shrimp, wound up on the table about 20 minutes later that evening, and it turned out to be so delicious, it has been in regular rotation ever since.
It involves three main ingredients, each of which I almost always have on hand: shrimp, basil pesto (both in the freezer) and whole-grain spaghetti. I decided they would come together perfectly. While the water for the pasta came to a boil, I defrosted the shrimp in a colander under cool running water and barely warmed the pesto on the stove.
Because shrimp loves garlic and lemon so much, I doubled down on those flavor elements — both already in the pesto — by sauteing sliced garlic in olive oil before adding the shrimp, then squeezing in fresh lemon juice. I stirred in the pesto and added a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes for a tingle of heat.
The pasta, done to nearly al dente, was tossed into the mix, to absorb the flavors and finish cooking. The meal, which included a simple salad, was ready before anyone could whine. Consider adding this to your own weeknight arsenal.
Ellie Krieger blogs and offers a weekly newsletter at www.elliekrieger.com.
Spaghetti With Shrimp and Pesto
Serve with a simple salad.
You’ll have leftover pesto, which can be refrigerated — covered with plastic wrap directly on the surface, then sealed in an airtight container — for up to 3 days.
From cookbook author and nutritionist Ellie Krieger.
For the pesto
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
3 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the spaghetti
12 ounces dried whole-grain spaghetti
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, sliced
1 pound medium-to-large shrimp (26-30 count), peeled and deveined
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
4 small sprigs fresh basil, torn or cut into thin strips, for garnish
For the pesto: Toast the pine nuts in a small, dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant and golden brown, shaking the pan frequently, about 3 minutes. Let cool.
Transfer the toasted pine nuts to a food processor; add the chopped garlic and pulse until those ingredients are minced. Add the basil, Parmigiano-Reggiano and lemon juice; pulse until finely minced and well incorporated. With the machine running, gradually pour the oil in a steady stream through the feed tube; process to form a fairly smooth pesto. Season with the salt and pepper. The yield is 1 cup; you’ll use 3/4 cup for this recipe.
For the spaghetti: Bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the pasta and cook for 1 minute less than the al-dente directions on the package. Reserve about a cup of the pasta cooking water before draining.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large, deep skillet or saute pan over medium-low heat. Add the sliced garlic and cook, stirring, until just golden, about 1 minute. Add the shrimp and cook, stirring occasionally, until pink but not cooked all the way through, about 3 minutes. Add the lemon juice, the 3/4 cup of pesto and the crushed red pepper flakes, and cook for a minute, stirring, until the mixture is barely bubbling at the edges.
Add the drained pasta to the skillet and continue to cook for 1 to 2 minutes, tossing with tongs, until the pasta is coated in the sauce and the shrimp is opaque and just cooked through. Add a splash or two of the reserved pasta cooking water as needed to loosen the sauce. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
Garnish with the basil and serve right away.
Per serving (based on 6, using 3/4 cup pesto): 450 calories, 26 g protein, 45 g carbohydrates, 22 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 125 mg cholesterol, 280 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 0 g sugar
Yield: 4 to 6 servings