“There's nothing more romantic than Italian food” ~ Elisha Cuthbert
(This post may contain affiliate links)
I met my husband one summer afternoon in our town's version of a soup kitchen. It's not every day you meet a guy who makes bread pudding for 100, and then quietly makes his way to the backroom to run the dishwasher for hours afterward.
Who is this man? Where did he come from?
Luckily, he practiced his love of cooking at home too. I married him for his big heart and quick wit, sure, but his skills in the kitchen were a very close third. I smile when I think back on our first year of marriage when he wooed me with candles, wine, and some pretty incredible
It went something like this; we'd walk to the neighborhood grocery together. After far too long spent wandering the aisles, we'd make our way home. He always carried the bag, weighted down from tomatoes, some really great cheese, and a few impulse buys to carry us through
“Pasta?” I'd ask, an ask that was more a bit of nostalgia. A reminder of the many dinners of buttery parmesan noodles I made during the years my kids were little
He'd smile and agree
After a glass or two of wine, good music and conversation, dinner was usually started much later than either of us had planned. Sure enough, there were a few things we'd forgotten. So he'd put his shoes back on and head off into the night. Random texts exchanged as he walked the aisles.
“A bottle of bubbly instead of the red, please?”
“Garlic(!) I think we're low.”
“Where again is the organic dark chocolate?”
“Never mind, I found it.”
More often than not, it was well after dark by the time the ingredients were procured. By that time I'd already eaten a few too many slices of cheese, put on my pajamas, the puppies were napping, and I was fading quickly.
Much to my surprise, we'd wake the next morning to a spotless kitchen and a pot of homemade red sauce in the fridge just waiting for dinner. In those moments I knew it was love, there's no bigger or better word for it than
It's rare that he cooks from a formal recipe, but when I tasted this one, I instantly knew it was similar to one of my favorite variations. Just in case you want to surprise your spouse, neighbor, or a little one. There's no one that wouldn't love this pasta
Most importantly? At our house, there's no one who doesn't love its creator
Some readers may have romantic notions around what a good tomato sauce should be. It can be a tough sell to ask you to break with some of those hearty, meaty, long-simmering sauces.
But it's spring and what better time to lighten things up a bit.
This sauce exudes the essence of tomatoes. Add to that sophistication of the Madeira, along with shrimp, and you have a pasta dish that's a real attention grabber.
Capers add a briny exclamation point, while fried shallot rings lend a crisp element.
A few notes about the recipe:
In the original, two shallots are used to make the rings, and honestly, we were left wishing for more. I think I'd consider using either four or five shallots, or an even onion to make the crisps instead
In the original, a shrimp broth is made by boiling the shells in water. I wasn't quite this ambitious (although included the steps below, and instead substituted some homemade chicken broth. I'm sure vegetable broth would work great as well.
~ Adapted from Fine Cooking | April & May 2016
Pasta with Shrimp in Madeira Wine Sauce
- 8 oz. campanile pasta (or pasta of similar size)
- 4 shallots, sliced lengthwise
- 4 Tbsp olive oil + more as needed
- 1 ½ lb. extra-jumbo shrimp, 16 to 20 per lb. shelled and deveined, shells reserved
- fine grain sea salt + freshly ground black pepper
- 2 Tbsp butter, unsalted
- 3 large cloves garlic thinly sliced
- ½ cup Madeira (Marsala is a great alternative)
- 1 lb cherry or grape tomatoes
- 1 (15 oz) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
- ¾ cup coconut milk (the original calls for heavy cream)
- ½ cup chicken broth
- 2 Tbsp capers, drained but not rinsed
- 2 Tbsp chives, thinly sliced
- good quality Parmesan cheese
- Bring a 6-quart pot of well-salted water to a boil.
- Cook the pasta according to the package directions until al dente.
- Drain the pasta and set aside to cool
- Season the shrimp with a pinch sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat, add the butter along with 2 Tbs. of the oil
- Add half of the shrimp and cook until they're just cooked through, about 30 seconds per side.
- Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining shrimp
- Madeira Wine Sauce
- Add the remaining 2 Tbs. oil and shallot strips to the skillet and cook, stirring, until golden brown in spots (~ 2 to 3 minutes)
- Add the garlic and cook a minute more
- Add the Madeira and cook until the wine has almost fully evaporated (~ 3 minutes)
- Add the tomatoes and cook until most have burst and their liquid is reduced by half (~ 4 to 5 minutes)
- Add the fire-roasted tomatoes, chicken broth, and coconut milk (or heavy cream if using)
- Cook until the sauce thickens (~ 4 to 5 minutes)
- Add the shrimp and cook until the dish has just heated through.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper
- Finish & Serve
- Add the pasta and capers to the sauce and toss, adding additional chicken broth to loosen the sauce, if needed
- Divide the pasta among four shallow bowls, garnish with the chives, freshly ground Parmesan cheese and serve.