Recipe: Baked Spaghetti x two

535048_10151622969642953_1426933668_n(1)I have to confess that I rarely like to make two separate meals for my family.  I tend to stand by the idea that if I’ve taken the time to cook dinner, the least they can do is eat it, right?  I decided to take pity on my older son, D, who is not a fan of seafood and make two versions of this baked spaghetti.  While it wasn’t difficult to do, it was definitely made as a treat since D will be heading off to grad school soon and I won’t have the opportunity to cook for him for a bit.

I began dinner by cooking spaghetti – I used most of a package of thin spaghetti, cooked as the package directed, but could have just as easily used linguini or some other pasta shape.  Spaghetti just seemed “right” to me for this meal.

Then I started with the protein side of things.  I sauteed a package of chicken tenders in a large stock pot until they were nicely browned and thoroughly cooked.  After removing the chicken, I added a pound of medium-sized raw shrimp without the shells and sauteed them in the same stock pot until they, too, were nicely browned and thoroughly cooked.  After giving them each their own photo shoot, I popped them into separate casserole dishes and set about making the sauce.

This sauce was a fairly simple one to do.  I began by melting 2T butter in a saute’ pan and adding half an onion, finely diced.  I let the heat take over and turn the onions translucent before adding some flour, and James River Cellars Chardonnay to start the creative juices flowing on this sauce.  I added some skim milk, simply because I wanted the sauce to have a little more body than the leaner Chardonnay sauce, then added  1/2 c asiago cheese, and 1/4 c shredded cheddar cheese.  Once the cheeses had melted into the sauce, I thinned it out with a little pasta water and some freshly ground pepper.  Throughout the process, I would taste the sauce to make sure things were blending nicely – this is where you should add or alter your recipe when you can.  Throwing salt on a finished product makes for a flatter taste in the meal, in my opinion.

Once the sauce was complete, I topped the two casserole dishes each with half the cooked pasta, and half the cooked sauce, then stirred them both to combine all the ingredients.  My final step was to bake the casseroles for 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven.  I sprinkled a touch of cheese on the top, but that’s totally up to you.  I just like the toasty cheese look when it comes out of the oven.

As you can see by the photos above, incorporated into this collage, dinner looked similar but tasted different, depending on the meat that was included.  M was happy with his Baked Shrimp Spaghetti and D was thrilled that his Baked Chicken Spaghetti had no seafood.  It was a win-win over all…especially since I got to have a ramekin of each recipe!  YUM!

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Recipe: Shrimp Puttanesca

I have to caveat this post by saying that this sauce is not a true Puttanesca… it has none of the tomatoes, olives, and capers one would expect in a traditional puttanesca sauce, should you place an order for this in a restaurant.  My darling husband isn’t a fan of olives and capers, but I was hungry for something along the same lines of a puttanesca sauce with shrimp, so this is the recipe that came about.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

I started with a frozen package of Extra Jumbo Shrimp from my local grocery store.  I love to pick up packages of shrimp any time they’re on sale, so this is always a “go to” for me… especially since my husband and I both love shrimp.  I thawed and shelled the shrimp while they were still partially frozen, so they were easy to peel.  I also put a pot of pasta on to cook… cook as much as you’d like for your meal.  We like either bowties, rotini, or ziti as any of these hold the sauce nicely and are easy to eat with a fork.  If you like spaghetti or linguini, this would be a great recipe to use as well.ShrimpPuttanesca

Once the pasta is almost cooked, I warmed up some olive oil and then sauteed a large amount of finely chopped garlic and shallots until softened and lightly browned.  Into the pan, I then added two anchovy fillets (I used the ones packed in oil, because that’s what I had in the cupboard – I’ll use anchovies packed in water for the next rendition) and allowed them to melt into a sauce.  SIDE NOTE:  Anchovies are fun to cook with because they really do melt into the sauce when exposed to heat and bring a salty back note to any sauce.  I find them fun to use, as long as my family isn’t aware that I’m using them… they’re a little finicky about fish in their sauces.  Once the base of the sauce was cooked and the anchovies were incorporated, I added the shrimp.  As you can see in the photo, I sliced the shrimp length-wise so they would curl up and look pretty in the dish.  This also allowed the shrimp to cook pretty quickly and pick up the sauce even better than if they were whole.

With the shrimp were in the pan and starting to cook, I added some James River Cellars’ Chardonnay to fill out the sauce.  If I were trying to make a meal without wine (why would anyone DO that??), I’d simply substitute chicken stock for the wine.  I allowed the wine to cook into the shrimp and add a lovely taste to the seafood before topping the entire dish with some chopped parsley.  If the sauce is still a little thick, you can add more wine OR you can add a little pasta water.   The pasta water will end up thickening the sauce as well, so adding both is not a bad idea either.

For plating purposes, I drained the pasta and then tossed it into the shrimp and sauce.  This dinner was a huge hit and will definitely be seen often in my “easy/go-to” line up of recipes.  Try it yourself and see if you don’t add it to your own family’s favorites!

If you’re thinking about making a Valentine’s dinner, this is wonderful for a seafood lover.  Just add some crusty bread and a decadent dessert, and your loved one will be putty in your hands.  Happy Valentine’s Day!