Some of my ingredients:
I LOVE that the wine is called French Maid!! (Hey, it was on sale!)
The great thing about this recipe is that it is very flexible and you can vary the ingredients depending on what you have on hand. No shrimp? Chicken works fine. So do those frozen meatballs. No peppers? No problem. Just leave 'em out. Want to use fresh herbs instead of dried? Go right ahead-- just wait to add them until the last minute or so of cooking. I've used linguine here, but you can use whatever kind of pasta you like. Also, we love things SPICY. If you don't, use a smaller amount of pepper flakes.
The shrimp version is a big favorite of DS's and we haven't had shrimp in quite a while. Since I got both the pasta and bottled pasta sauce FREE with coupons, I decided to splurge on the shrimp (on sale for half price). Actually, I got ALL the ingredients at a discount-- so I made this dish in poco tiempo for poco dinero!
Unfortunately, this dish is kind of like me: not very photogenic! You'll just have to take my word for it that it's delicious. Everything just looks kind of.... orange... yes, that largish orange thing towards the bottom is a piece of eggplant.
Need a meal on the table pronto? Try
Hellzapoppin' Shrimp Linguine
1 lb. linguine or pasta of choice (I used whole wheat linguine)
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 t. red pepper flakes (more to taste)
1 onion, diced
1 sweet bell pepper, diced (I used red, you can use green, orange... or none.)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 small eggplant, peeled and diced (see notes below)
3/4 c. wine (I used white to go with the shrimp)
1 t. dried oregano
2 t. dried basil
1/2 t. dried thyme (fresh would have been really nice here, but I didn't have any)
1 jar pasta sauce (whatever kind you like. I used Newman's Own Sockarooni)
1/2 pasta jar of water
1 t. sugar
1 T balsamic vinegar
2 T capers
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 lb. raw medium shrimp, peeled
Put a large pot of salted water on to boil while you are getting the sauce ingredients ready. Set a large heavy skillet over medium heat.
When the onions are chopped, spray the skillet with nonstick spray and add the olive oil. Add the onions to the pan and saute until translucent. Add the peppers and saute for 2-3 minutes, then add the garlic and saute for about 1 minute (don't let it burn!). Add the eggplant and sprinkle with 1/2 t. salt. Saute for 3-4 minutes, until starting to get tender.
Increase the heat to medium high and add the wine. Bring to a boil, and cook until wine is almost completely evaporated. Add the oregano, basil and thyme and stir for about a minute.
Add the bottled pasta sauce. Fill the "empty" jar halfway with water, put the lid on tightly and shake to get all the remnants of sauce out of the jar. Add the water/sauce mixture to the pan, along with the sugar. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, until thickened.
Here's my sauce, starting to simmer
At this point, add your pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente (7-9 minutes, depending on what kind you're using). Drain the cooked pasta.
Taste the sauce at this point to check the seasoning. When I tasted my sauce, it Needed Something. So I added 1 T of balsamic vinegar and more red pepper flakes. That did the trick. (A bit of grated orange zest would have been nice too, but I didn't have any oranges.) Now add the capers and stir. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Finally, reduce the heat to medium and add the shrimp. Stir until the shrimp is pink and cooked through, about 2 minutes. If you are using fresh herbs, add them now. When the shrimp is cooked through, add the pasta to the sauce and stir to combine. Remove from the heat and serve immediately.
Some chopped Italian parsley would have been a nice addition at this point, but I forgot to pick some up. By all means, feel free to add grated cheese if you like.
DS's bowl, up close & personal
NOTE: The basic components of this infinitely flexible sauce are 1)onion & garlic sauteed in olive oil, 2)protein & veggie(s) of choice, 3)wine or vodka, 4)Italian herbs (fresh or dried) of choice, 5)bottled pasta sauce of choice, 6)flavor booster of choice. Some components of the ingredients are only soluble in alcohol, so adding wine or vodka greatly enhances the flavor.
NOTE: if you are using boneless chicken, ground beef, or Italian sausage, brown these items first and remove from the pan, then proceed with the recipe. If you add the meat after or with the onion, it will never really brown because there's too much moisture in the pan. Add the browned meat or chicken back to the pan when you add the bottled pasta sauce. Frozen meatballs and can be dumped in when you add the pasta sauce.
NOTE: Many combinations of vegetables will work great here, depending on what you like. Peppers, mushrooms, eggplant, and zucchini in various combinations are all delicious. I have not had good luck with cruciferous veggies like broccoli or cauliflower, but you may.
NOTE: some of the "flavor boosters" we enjoy are capers, drained, marinated artichoke hearts, green or black olives, fennel seed (add with the other herbs), grated orange zest, & balsamic vinegar.
NOTE: it's really important to add only minimal amounts of salt as you go, because the sauce will get saltier as it thickens. A bit of salt draws the moisture out of eggplant and helps it cook better. Some ingredients, like capers or olives, are salty, too. You can always ADD more salt if the sauce needs it, but you can't take salt out! So wait until the sauce is pretty much done before adding salt to taste.