Shelled Shrimp Add Big Flavor To This Simple Tomato Sauce

This image released by Milk Street shows a recipe for spaghetti with shrimp, tomatoes and white wine. (Milk Street via AP)
This image released by Milk Street shows a recipe for spaghetti with shrimp, tomatoes and white wine. (Milk Street via AP)
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In Venetian scampi alla busara, large, sweet, shell-on prawns are bathed in a sauce made with fresh tomatoes and flavored with a splash of white wine, smashed garlic cloves and a sprinkling of pepper flakes. Pairing scampi alla busara with al dente pasta is a delicious, though not strictly traditional, combination.

In this recipe from our newest cookbook “ Milk Street 365: The All-Purpose Cookbook for Every Day of the Year,” we use shelled shrimp in place of prawns for convenience; the tails are used to give the dish a rich, savory note.

We start by cooking the pasta until just shy of al dente, then set it aside, along with a cup of the starchy cooking water. The pasta finishes cooking directly in the sauce; the reserved cooking water helps the sauce cling to the pasta.

To build flavor in the simple tomato sauce, we remove the tails from the shrimp and sauté them in olive oil with garlic until the garlic begins to brown. White wine is added to the pan and reduced, creating a garlicky sauce base.

The tails and garlic are removed from the reduction and ripe plum tomatoes are added, along with fresh basil, sugar and red pepper flakes. The sauce is simmered until the tomatoes are softened and jammy and the juices have fully evaporated. The shrimp are cooked directly in the sauce until they turn pink, then finish with the pasta and a bit of pasta water. Off-heat, the pasta is finished with additional fresh basil and a drizzle of olive oil for richness.

SPAGHETTI WITH SHRIMP, TOMATOES AND WHITE WINE Start to finish: 45 minutes Servings: 4 to 6 1 pound spaghetti Kosher salt and ground black pepper 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more to serve 4 medium garlic cloves, smashed and peeled 1½ pounds extra-large shrimp (21/25 per pound), peeled (tails removed and reserved) and deveined ⅓ cup dry white wine 2 pounds ripe plum tomatoes, cored and chopped 1 cup lightly packed fresh basil, torn 2 teaspoons white sugar ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes In a large pot, bring 3 quarts water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and 2 teaspoons salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until just shy of al dente. Reserve about 1 cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta and return it to the pot; set aside.

In a 12-inch skillet over medium, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil until shimmering. Add the garlic and shrimp tails, then cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic begins to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the wine, bring to a simmer and cook, stirring, until it has reduced by about half, 2 to 3 minutes. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, remove and discard the garlic and shrimp tails.

Into the wine reduction, stir the tomatoes, half of the basil, the sugar, pepper flakes and ½ teaspoon each salt and black pepper. Bring to a simmer over medium-high, then reduce to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are softened and jammy and the juices have fully evaporated, 12 to 15 minutes.

Add the shrimp and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to turn pink, about 2 minutes. Pour the mixture over the spaghetti in the pot, then add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and ½ cup of the pasta water. Cook over medium, tossing with tongs, until the sauce clings to the spaghetti and the shrimp are cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes; add more cooking water 1 tablespoon at a time if the mixture looks dry.

Off heat, taste and season with salt and pepper, then stir in the remaining basil. Serve drizzled with additional oil. EDITOR’S NOTE: For more recipes, go to Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street at