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The Simple Things

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One of my oldest San Francisco friends and ex-coworker from my pre-wine industry days joined me for dinner last week (she will be known as Merryweather from this point forth). I love cooking for Merryweather because she asks questions about what I am doing, and loves everything I make. It’s a great boost of confidence! Last night she told me, “you should be on one of those cooking shows.” I told Merryweather that I wouldn’t enjoy cooking nearly as much if I was forced to compete in a small amount of time – and without my usual glass of wine in my non-cooking hand! Merryweather told me she was in awe of how much I had going on in the kitchen, but it was really quite simple recipes that anyone can reproduce – including her!

We started with my usual Caesar Salad with my homemade dressing and croutons, but I added a new element to it: fried capers! I will now never have a Caesar salad without fried capers.  They add an extra crunch and saltiness, and are a great compliment to the anchovy paste in the dressing. And you can make them while you’re preparing the croutons or the dressing! Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, then put 1/4 cup of capers (drained) in a heavy oven-safe pan with 1 tsp of olive oil. Mix to combine and bake for about 18 minutes, stirring a few times. When they are done, let cool for a bit before adding to the salad.

fried capers, before

fried capers, after

As most of you have realized by now, I have a divine love for pasta. I am always trying to come up with new ways to make pasta, whether it’s a different sauce, noodle, or technique. And lately I have been really excited about fresh pasta – so excited, that I am hoping to get my own pasta-maker soon! But in the meantime, I am more than content with the fresh pasta from Home Maid Ravioli – especially of the spinach variety. Their spinach pasta is so good, that I like to pair it with a simple red sauce and some cheese, so as not to overwhelm the flavors of the pasta. And for some extra protein, I topped it with some colossal shrimp that I sauteed in some of the red sauce. We both agreed that it was a very delicious bowl of pasta, and Merryweather even said she would pay up to $25 for a plate of it at a restaurant!

Spinach Fettucini with Tomato Sauce, Ricotta and Shrimp

Simple Tomato Sauce:

  • 2 32-oz cans of crushed tomatoes with puree
  • 1/4 cup good-quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, halved
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp of salt-free Italian seasoning
  • salt and pepper to taste

Other ingredients:

  • 1 lb fresh spinach pasta
  • 1/2 lb of jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined (about 12 shrimp)
  • 1/2 cup or more of fresh ricotta
  • Pecorino romano, freshly grated

The sauce takes at least an hour to cook, so start that before doing anything. In a large pot add the 2 cans of crushed tomatoes. Fill one can with water and add to the pot as well. Add the onion halves, garlic cloves, olive oil, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper and stir to combine. Heat over a medium-low flame for a minimum of 1 hour for a thinner sauce and up to 3 hours for a thick sauce.

tomato sauce

Once the sauce has been cooking for an hour, remove the onion halves and garlic and place into a small bowl with a little bit of the sauce. Heat another medium pot of water for the pasta, and set a separate sauté pan over medium heat. Add the saucy onion and garlic to the sauté pan, then add the shrimp (tail on) and saute for about 5 minutes, or until the shrimp are opaque. This helps to blend the flavors of the sauce with the shrimp.

discarded onions and garlic

shrimp

cooked shrimp

Once the water is boiling, add the fresh pasta and cook for about 3 minutes. Reserve about 1/2 cup of water before draining. Add pasta back to the pot with 1-2 cups of the red sauce. Add a little of the water from the pasta (not the whole half cup!) to thicken the sauce if you prefer, and stir to combine.

all the pots

Spoon pasta into shallow bowls and top with a little more red sauce. Add a spoonful of fresh ricotta and about a tablespoon of grated Pecorino Romano. Top with the shrimp and serve immediately.

pasta

pasta

The combination of flavors in this pasta was spot-on. And something as simple as fresh ricotta added so much texture, especially with the coldness of the cheese juxtaposed to the hot pasta. We would have had second helpings if we weren’t so full!

I served my new favorite Napa Valley Merlot from Groppallo Vineyards with this meal. To be honest, it wasn’t the ideal pairing but I just really wanted to drink the wine. We had most of it after dinner, anyhow. If pairing this meal with a wine I would suggest something a little lighter like a Chianti or Sangiovese.

And, last but not least, the winner of last week’s 100th Blog Post Giveaway… clairemccabemusic! Thank you for your suggestions on Italian wine, and for your enthusiasm about Seasons of Wine. You must know me well, as my apartment uses Trader Joe’s Nero d’Avola as our house wine! Cheers, and happy holidays!

About Kelsey

Kelsey is a food and wine lover residing in Napa, California, where she does marketing for a boutique wine collective. She previously lived in San Francisco for over six years, where her blogging journey began. She loves to cook seasonal meals and experiment with new wine pairings. She has been drinking and learning about wine with her father since she was 14, and cooking in the kitchen with her mother since she was 6. Both of her parents taught her well about seasoning and flavors, and she continues to learn more with every meal that is made.

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