Tag Archives: Olives

Sauceless Pasta!

17 Sep

My friend Michelle often gives me what she calls “challenges.”  She gives me an ingredient or a general idea of something she wants to make, and tasks me with coming up with a dish given those parameters.  This recipe is a result of one of her challenges.  She told me she wanted to make something with shrimp, and this dish is what I came up with.  This is a sauceless pasta, with shrimp, sun dried tomatoes, arugula, kalamata olives, garlic, and cremini mushrooms tossed with angel hair pasta.

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The elements of this dish are, as with most recipes, very flexible, and depend entirely on your own personal taste.  For example, you could use fresh spinach instead of argula, or fresh tomatoes instead of sun dried, white button mushrooms instead of cremini.  You can exchange ingredients or eliminate certain ones altogether.  Don’t like shrimp?  Don’t use it.

The idea of sauceless pastas is one I’ve fully embraced.  Once I figured out that you don’t need a red sauce, or a white sauce for that matter, to eat pasta, pasta became a lot more interesting.  Pasta is something that can be combined with a multitude of ingredients and yield tasty results.  My pasta dishes usually involve vegetables, some kind of cheese, and often I toss in some nuts.  Walnuts are especially good in pasta.  The simplest combinations are often the best.  Tomatoes, basil, and olive oil are a favorite of mine.

Ingredients for 2-3  main dish servings

4-6 oz. angel hair pasta (about a third of a 1-lb package)

8 oz. shrimp

2 cloves garlic

8 0z. whole or chopped cremini mushrooms (you will usually find them in the same place as you find the standard white mushroom, in the same type of packaging)

2 T olive oil

1/4-1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes

1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives

3 or 4 big handfuls of fresh arugula

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a large pot of over high heat to bring to a boil for the pasta.  Toss in some salt, about 1 teaspoon or so.  It’s important to salt pasta water; adding salt after the cooking process is not the same–the salt must go in the water in order to get the most flavorful pasta.

As you wait for the water to boil, prepare your shrimp and mushrooms.  I bought frozen, deveined shrimp.  I had to peel my shrimp, but this doesn’t take that long to do.  You can buy shrimp already peeled if you like.  I ran water over the shrimp to thaw them quickly, and then peeled them:

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Once your water is boiling, add the pasta.  Angel hair takes about 5 minutes to cook, but read the package directions if you’re using a different kind of pasta.  Once the pasta is done, turn off the heat, remove the pot from the burner, and let it sit until you’ve completed the other steps.

Set the shrimp aside in a bowl, and heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat while you prepare the mushrooms.  I usually clean my mushrooms using a damp paper towel.  It’s harder, in my opinion, to get the dirt off if you run water over them.  After washing, chop your mushrooms into pieces like this:

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Once you chop the mushrooms, the pan should be hot enough to start cooking them.  Stir the mushrooms every few minutes to make sure they cook more or less evenly.  Once you toss the mushrooms into the pan, chop the garlic.  After about 5 minutes of cooking, add the shrimp to the mushrooms, along with the garlic.  Add a few pinches of salt.

Shrimp and garlic take very little time to cook.  Be sure to stir every few minutes.  The shrimp is done when the color turns from gray to pink.  It’s important not to cook this too long, because the garlic could burn and the shrimp could dry out and get tough.  Just before your shrimp/garlic/mushroom mixture is done cooking, add the sun dried tomatoes and cook for a few minutes more.  Once it’s done, taste to see if more salt is needed.  If so, add more.  Below is a picture right after adding the shrimp and garlic, and below that a picture when it’s done.

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Chop the olives, if they came whole.

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Assemble the dish.  Place the arugula in the bottom of a bowl and mix with the drained pasta.  The heat from the pasta will wilt the arugula slightly.

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Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.  Add pepper.  Taste.  Add salt if needed.

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Salsa All’Arrabiata

30 Aug

First of all, this is the biggest onion I’ve ever seen:

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To give you an idea of size, I put it next to my coffee cup.  I bought this at Central Market, and it’s a sweet onion originating in Hatch, New Mexico.  It weighs 2.08 pound, so it’s like 4 large onions in one.  Now that I got that out of the way, on to the dish at hand.  I used one quarter of this giant onion in this sauce.

This is a spiced up version of marinara sauce.  It’s called Salsa “All’Arrabiata” which means “angry” in Italian, referring to the spicy nature of the sauce.  This particular recipe is from Everyday Italian by Giada de Laurentiis.  I love this cookbook because it has so many basics of classic Italian cooking.  Italian really is my favorite cuisine, because it’s relatively uncomplicated, and it’s hard not to love the flavors.  Also, when you cook Italian, almost all ingredients are pretty easy to locate in the average American grocery store.

The base of the sauce consists of crushed tomatoes, onion, garlic, olive oil, and salt.  What makes it All’Arrabiata are the red pepper flakes, olives, and capers.  It’s a very easy sauce.  Not many ingredients, and once you get everything together, the cooking time for the sauce is only 20 minutes.  You can also easily make a double or triple batch and freeze to minimize your sauce-making effort, as with any other tomato sauce.


3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 small onion

2 or 3 cloves of fresh garlic

1/2 cup pitted black olives (here, I use kalamata olives, but canned black olives are fine)

2 tablespoons capers

1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

Generous pinch of red pepper flakes (I err on the side of more, just because I like this sauce to be very spicy)

1 (28 oz.) can of crushed tomatoes


In a large skillet with deep sides or a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  While the oil heats, chop the onion and garlic.  Chop the onion first, because it needs more time to cook than the garlic will.  I tend to chop my onion into pretty large pieces, though others prefer very fine pieces.  I usually chop larger chunks just because it takes a while to finely chop an onion.  A food processor is actually good for this purpose, but I don’t own one.  Once chopped, add to the pot.

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Crush the garlic cloves with the side of your knife to loosen the peel.  Peel.

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Chop the garlic:

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Add to the onion to cook.  Give it a stir, and let saute for a few minutes.  Meanwhile, chop the olives, and measure the capers.


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Capers generally come in a little glass jar like this one, and you can usually find them where you find jarred olives and vinegar.

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Add the olives and capers to the pot, plus 1/2 teaspoon of salt:

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Add the red pepper flakes.  I buy these from the bulk foods department at the grocery store.  Like most spices, red pepper flakes are much cheaper if purchased from bulk foods, and you can buy exactly as much or as little as you like.

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After you add the red pepper flakes, give the mixture a stir to combine, and add the crushed tomatoes. Stir to combine, and allow to cook for 20 minutes.  Your stove is on medium heat, so turn it down to medium low to low heat for the cooking time.  Stir every 5 minutes or so.

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I ended up with a pretty chunky sauce, mostly because I can’t be bothered to finely chop my onions….You can use this sauce on anything, but the obvious option is any kind of pasta.  I also enjoy dipping bread in it.  Buon appetito!