Pasta and seafood are the perfect combination

Shrimp and kale pasta is a versatile, easy-to-make dish. BY JACK CLEMONS
February 25, 2013

Have you ever noticed what you talk about when you’re at a restaurant? More often than not, we find ourselves chatting about other restaurants. At a recent luncheon meeting, we were sitting around the table with napkins in our laps, waiting for our meal to be served. As often happens in moments like this, our conversation turned to the subject of food (after all, we were hungry). Someone asked if we’d tried a local restaurant under new ownership, then we began debating about where to find a nice bowl of soup.

Once we’d exhausted the inventory of eateries on Delmarva, we started on the topic of favorite recipes. My friend Dottie Blakely had our mouths watering with her description of an inventive seafood pasta dish. As she used her hands to mime the process of chopping, sautéing and tossing, we were ready to go shopping for the ingredients. She confessed this was a particular favorite of hers: Because her husband doesn’t like kale, she doesn’t have to share.

The recipe is endlessly adaptable and quite simple to assemble. Boil pasta until al dente, then toss it into the skillet where you’ve sautéed sliced onions, chopped kale and crabmeat. A generous sprinkle of Old Bay enlivens the dish with sweet hints of cinnamon and ginger along with spicy heat from pepper and paprika.

Although Dottie prefers to use crabmeat, we made the version in the photo with shrimp. After the onion (and minced shallot) had cooked through, we squeezed in some lemon juice and wine when we added the kale and shrimp. Just as the chopped greens wilted into tenderness, the shrimp turned a perfect pink.

This is a dish that works equally well with any type of pasta, from angel hair to bowties. The seafood ingredient should be one that requires little cooking, like shrimp, crab or (if you’re feeling indulgent) lobster. Lemon and white wine create a simple sauce to coat the pasta with the distinctive Old Bay seasonings.

After tasting the Dottie-inspired shrimp and linguine dish, I realized what disappointed me the last time I tried a jar of tomato-crab sauce with pasta: the recipe should feature the key ingredient. The texture and flavor of delicate seafood will disappear when stirred into a spicy, thick tomato sauce, leaving only a vague hint of the sea. If you’re partial to tomatoes in your pasta, try adding chopped fresh tomato or slivered sun-dried tomatoes when your sauce includes seafood.

The recipes below are a collection of interchangeable ingredients. Any of the sauces would go with any of the seafood options, and the seasonings can be tweaked to your personal preferences.

Just make sure you have the pasta cooked by the time the sauce is done, so you can toss everything together and serve the dish piping hot. And don’t be surprised when the conversation around the table turns to reminisces about other delicious meals.

Kale and shrimp pasta

1 T olive oil
1 T butter
1 chopped onion
1 minced shallot
1 bunch kale
1 lb large shrimp
2 T lemon juice
1/4 C white wine
1 1/2 T Old Bay
8 oz pasta, cooked al dente
salt & pepper, to taste
grated Parmesan cheese

Separate stems from kale and discard; roughly chop the leaves and set aside. Peel and devein the shrimp; rinse and set aside. Heat olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and shallot; cook until softened, stirring occasionally. Add the shrimp, kale, lemon juice, wine and Old Bay. Stir well and cover. Cook until kale has wilted and shrimp is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Toss the cooked pasta with the kale mixture until combined. Season to taste and serve with grated cheese.

Tomato & Crab Pasta

1 T olive oil
2 pressed garlic cloves
2 sliced scallions
1 1/2 C chopped tomatoes
1/2 C sliced sun-dried tomato
1/4 t red pepper flakes
8 oz crab meat
8 oz pasta, cooked al dente
4 oz mascarpone cheese
salt & pepper, to taste
2 T chopped basil leaves

Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and scallions; cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and red pepper. Cover and simmer until the sun-dried tomatoes soften, about 5 minutes. Add crab and cook just until heated through, about 5 minutes. Mix cooked pasta and cheese with sauce, tossing gently to combine. Adjust seasonings and sprinkle with basil to serve.

Lobster & Pasta

2 T butter
1 T olive oil
1 leek, sliced thin
2 pressed garlic cloves
1 minced red chili
1/2 C broth
1/2 t lemon zest
1/4 t thyme
2 cooked lobster tails
8 oz pasta, cooked al dente
salt & pepper, to taste
1 T chopped parsley

Heat the olive oil and butter in a skillet over medium. Add the leek and cook until translucent. Add the garlic and chili; cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Chop the lobster into small chunks and add to the skillet along with broth, lemon zest and thyme. Cook just until heated through, about 5 minutes. Toss with pasta, adjust seasonings and garnish with parsley to serve.

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