When it comes to quick weeknight meals that take advantage of fresh, seasonal products or high-quality pantry ingredients, and prepared in a non-fussy manner, the Italians have it down. An olive-oil based pasta dish seems to be one of the quickest and easiest meals to throw together. There are many types of "sauce" or condimento, as the Italians would say, that take as much time to cook as it takes for the pasta to cook. Also, there's very little advanced slicing and dicing of ingredients that needs to happen prior to the actual cooking. You just get your pasta water on, a saute pan heated up, and you're good to go!
I always try to have a bag of frozen shrimp in my freezer. Shrimp is an easy protein to prepare in a number of different ways. They defrost very quickly in a bowl of cold water. You can buy them in some combination of shelled, deveined, and even precooked. I don't mind peeling shrimp, but I must say that it's pretty convenient to have them peeled and deveined when it's a Tuesday night. As for being frozen, unless you live somewhere coastal where fresh shrimp is readily available, all shrimp you see in the store or seafood market has been previously frozen. So you may as well buy them in their frozen state and defrost them yourself. Look for frozen shrimp that are labeled IQF (Individually Quick Frozen).
I decided that for my version, I'd use very thinly-sliced lemons, peel and all, for the lemon component. The zest provides a lot of flavor, aroma and also looks kind of cool. If you decide to use thinly sliced lemons, try to find lemons that have thin skin and little pith. Otherwise, you could just use the juice and grate the zest. For this particular version, I use Meyer lemons that were from my sister-in-law, Kate's Meyer lemon tree in California. Thanks Kate!
SPAGHETTI WITH SHRIMP, LEMON AND ARUGULA
Ingredients: 1 lb spaghetti, 1 lb of shrimp, 2 lemons (1 thinly-sliced, 1 for juice), 2-3 cloves thinly sliced garlic, extra-virgin olive oil, arugula, salt, pepper
- Cook spaghetti in a large pot of well-salted water.
- In a cold saute pan, add sliced garlic and cover with olive oil until the bottom of the pan is fully covered.
- Put the saute pan over medium-high heat and heat up until the garlic just begins to brown.
- Add the shrimp and season with salt and pepper. Turn heat to high.
- Cook for a couple of minutes until beginning to turn pink and opaque.
- Add lemon slices and cook for another minute until shrimp is fully cooked.
- Use tongs to add the spaghetti to the saute pan. You want some of the pasta cooking wated to cling to the pasta.
- Combine the spaghetti with the shrimp and portion onto plates.
- In a large bowl, dress the arugula with a few drops of lemon juice, extra-virgin olive oil and salt.
- Place a handful of arugula on top of your spaghetti.
- Garnish the spaghetti and arugula with some more extra-virgin olive oil.