Take your pasta up a notch by using the free flavour in prawn (shrimp) shells to make a quick stock which is used as a sauce. This is a restaurant secret!
The first time I tried pasta made this way was at a family dinner when my brother made it. I have never scoffed down a pasta so fast, and I’m pretty sure I went back for thirds. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but it was so good. So, so good. After dinner, he finally revealed that the sauce he used was made using the prawn heads and shells. And ever since then, I have been obsessed with making prawn (shrimp) pasta this way.
“Use the prawn (shrimp) heads and shells to make a sauce that makes this a restaurant quality pasta.”
So by using the prawn heads and shells to make a quick stock, you can make a pasta that is a step up from the usual. It’s not a full blown fish stock, just a quick one made using the prawn heads and shells. And it doesn’t taste fishy at all. I would describe it as sweet with a deep flavour. In fact, it’s actually quite hard to pick why the pasta tastes so good, you just know it does!
This is best made using raw whole prawns which you peel yourself because you will get the most flavour in the stock/sauce. But it can also be made using pre cooked prawns, as long as they are not peeled.
Oh, before I sign off, a quick tip for Sydney-siders! I got these prawns from Harris Farm Markets on a whim because I just discovered today that all their fresh seafood is 50% off from 2pm on Sundays! I will most certainly be making it a habit to swing by Harris Farms on Sunday afternoons…..
Happy cooking! – Nagi
PS Do you know how to tell a prawn is perfectly cooked? A raw prawn hangs straight. A perfectly cooked prawn curls into a “C” shape. An overcooked prawn curls into an “O” shape. It’s so sad when that happens!
- 1 lb / 500g large , raw, unpeeled prawns/shrimp
- 2 garlic cloves , minced
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup chicken or fish stock/broth (or vegetable)
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1/2 cup white wine (optional - sub with water)
- 1/2 onion , roughly chopped
- 400 g / 13oz spaghetti
- 3/4 cup pasta cooking water (i.e. scoop it out once the pasta is cooked)
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil , plus extra for drizzling
- 1 garlic clove , minced
- 1 1/2 punnets cherry tomatoes , cut in half (or 3 large tomatoes, diced)
- 1 large lemon (or 1 1/2 small lemons), zest and juice
- 3 tbsp fresh parsley , finely chopped
- 2 tsp dried chili flakes (optional)
- Black pepper
- Extra lemon wedges
- Extra fresh parsley , finely chopped
Peel and devein the prawns, keeping the tails in tact. (Note 1)
Discard the vein and place the heads and shells in a saucepan or pot to make the stock. (Note 2)
Cut the larger prawns lengthwise in half.
Add 2 minced garlic cloves the minced garlic and 2 tbsp of olive oil. Use your fingers to gently coat the prawns. Cover and set aside to marinate while you make the stock.
Add the remaining stock ingredients into the saucepan/pot and place over high heat. Bring to boil then turn down to medium / medium high and let it simmer rapidly.
Get a potato masher and "crush" the prawn heads and shells (to extract maximum flavour). Do this a couple of times while it is simmering.
When the liquid has reduced to around 1 to 1 1/2 cups, strain the stock into a bowl, then pour the stock back into the pot. (Note 3) Place lid on, then set the stock aside, keeping it warm until required.
Bring a large pot of water with 2 tsp of salt to boil. Add pasta and cook until just before al dente (Note 4).
While the pasta is cooking, heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large deep fry pan over high heat.
Add the prawns and cook the first side for 1 minute, then turn and cook the other side for 1 minute. Remove onto a plate, loosely cover with foil and set aside. (Note 5)
Add the remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil and 1 garlic clove (minced) into the fry pan. Scrape the residual oil and garlic from the bowl the prawns were marinating in as well. Return the fry pan to the stove and sauté until the garlic is fragrant.
Transfer the cooked pasta into the fry pan (use tongs to transfer it from the pasta pot) along with 3/4 cup of the pasta water (this is a key step) and cherry tomatoes. Gently toss the pasta in the fry pan for around 1 minute. The water will thicken and turn into a glossy coating on the pasta.
Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, parsley, chilli (if using) and prawns/shrimp. Quickly toss to combine, then pour over the stock and toss quickly to coat all the pasta. Then remove from heat immediately.
Season to taste with salt and pepper (always do this last).
Drizzle with extra olive oil, and serve immediately, with extra lemon wedges and fresh parsley if desired.
Note: seafood pastas and risottos are not traditionally garnished with parmesan (in Italy), however, I say do as you wish!
1. This is how I peel prawns (I'm right handed): hold the prawn in your left hand and gently enclose your fingers around it so the prawn is almost straight. Break the head off with your right hand in a slight twisting motion, then gently pull it away and hopefully, the vein will be pulled out as you pull the head away from the body. If the vein breaks, just bend the prawn and the flesh will pull apart and expose the vein. Use a skewer or small sharp knife and to "hook" under the vein, pull it up then use your fingers to gently pull it out.
Then peel the shell off, leaving the tails in tact.
2. The larger the pot, the faster the stock reduces.
3. At this stage if you didn't reduce it enough, you can simmer it more until you get to the required 1 1/2 cups. If you reduced it too much, add a touch of water.
4. If the pasta packet says to cook for 8 minutes, I deduct 2 minutes so it is just before al dente. This is because the pasta finishes cooking in the sauce.
5. How to tell your prawn is cooked: A raw prawn hangs straight. A perfectly cooked prawn curls into a "C" shape. An overcooked prawn curls into an "O" shape. It's so sad when that happens!
6. I add the cherry tomatoes quite late so they are still holding their shape but are warmed through. You could add them into the pan before the pasta to soften them more. Another variation is to cook chopped tomatoes (or even crushed tomatoes) in the pan after cooking the prawns. Cook it down until thick then the pasta is extra saucy.
7. Nutrition per serving.