Pasta is one of those things we can whip up with very little preparation time and with just some basic ingredients which we’re likely to already have in our fridge. And dried pasta stores well. So I always stock up at least 3 different kinds. Certain shapes go better with certain sauces because of the way that the ingredients in the pasta sauce adheres to or gets picked up by the pasta, or because of their texture. But then it does boil down to personal preference. At the moment, there’s some Spaghettini, Squid Ink Spaghettini, Tagliatelle, Parppadelle, Macaroni and Penne in my larder. The egg tagliatelle would go with cream sauces or egg sauces, whereas for aglio olioor white wine sauces, we’d use spaghettini. The kids prefer the shorter pastas, which I assume is because it’s just easier to eat. Those tend to go well with tomato-based sauces.
We had some friends over for dinner last Saturday. It was an impromptu thing we arranged on the day itself. After our morning picnic at Botanic Gardens (which was adjourned to Hort Park after it began to rain), we dropped by at my favourite supermarket. I’d already planned on making breaded chicken breasts seasoned in herbs and stuffed with bacon and cheese (my take on Chicken Cordon Bleu), with some salad and sweet mango on the side. But the Tiger Prawns looked really compelling that day – so fresh, large and plump – so I decided we’d have them as well, in spaghettini with a sun-dried tomato and black olive sauce.
This pasta dish is easy enough to prepare on a week night. At the same time, it’s lush enough to have with a glass of wine when you feel like spoiling yourself or when you’re entertaining. Especially if you have fresh large Tiger Prawns like we did.
12-18 large tiger prawns (approx 800g)
2 whole garlic, chopped
4 large shallots, sliced
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes (steeped in oil), sliced
3/4 cup sliced pitted black olives
2 cans chopped/diced tomatoes (approx 550g in total), drained
2 handfuls of chopped basil leaves
4 sprigs Italian parsley, chopped
Grated Parmigiano Reggiano (Pecorino or Parmesan is fine too)
2-4 chili padis, seeds removed (2 if you want it mild, more if you want it more spicy) (optional)
1.5 cups olive oil (add a little more as you go, if necessary)
4 tbs butter
Salt and black pepper to taste
Heat 2-3 tbs olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat.
Pat prawns dry, then place on skillet to cook, one side at a time, turning when they are cooked halfway through. Allow prawns to be seared, but reduce heat before they start to burn. Remove prawns with slotted spoon when they are just cooked through, and set aside.
Turn down heat.
Add remaining olive oil, butter, garlic and shallots to the skillet and saute till softened.
Add sun-dried tomatoes and saute till softened.
Add chopped/diced tomatoes, chili and black olives, and cook until sauce thickens.
Stir in chopped basil leaves.
Stir in prawns (including any drippings/juice) and season with salt and black pepper.
Meanwhile, bring large pot of water to a boil, with 3 tsp salt added. Cook pasta until al dente (tender but firm), then drain.
Add cooked pasta to the skillet and combine with the sauce.
Dish onto plates, arranging prawns on top of pasta, and sprinkle with cheese and chopped Italian parsley.