Ouzo flavored shrimp tomato pasta
This is a summer recipe we used a couple of weeks ago. It was a lazy Sunday, the sun was shining, cicadas were singing on the pine trees and we were taking our morning coffee in the balcony.
To us, the song of the cicadas is the epitome of summer. We wanted to cook something easy for lunch, something tasty and suitable for such a day. A Greek seafood pasta dish was quickly decided: Ouzo flavored shrimp tomato pasta!
It's one those easy shrimp pasta recipes that don't take long to cook, are beautiful to look at, and are packed with flavor! We made a shrimp ouzo sauce with tomatoes and cooked whole wheat spaghetti that's perfect for this dish. You can also use your own favorite spaghetti, but we suggest you try whole wheat which has a more rustic flavor for this recipe.
We added fennel seeds, which have a very similar flavor with anise. Why did we do that? Because we added ouzo in the sauce. Yes this is one of those traditional recipes using ouzo. Ouzo is a drink flavored with anise, so it was a perfect combination. You can also use anise seeds if you don't have fennel seeds, the result is near the same. Here in Greece ouzo is an aperitif served usually in the summer, with some meze, meaning some small savory dishes, with olives, sardines, octopus, squid etc. These will help you enjoy the drink slowly, in small sips, so you won't get dizzy.
Ouzo is served always with ice cubes and water. Once you mix the water with ouzo, the color changes to cloudy white. We have countless memories of a small glass with ouzo and mezedes (plural of meze) on a table near the beach:) If you ever visit Greece, make sure to try this. And be careful, ouzo is hard liquor, so it's consumed only in small quantities. It's the flavor that you want to enjoy when drinking ouzo, while you eat some delicious treats at the same time.
But let's get back to our shrimp tomato pasta. What else did we add? Shrimp and garlic are culinary best friends. We added 3 cloves, but you can also add more and make this more like a garlic shrimp pasta. We chose whole shrimp, as we wanted to use the heads as well. What did we do this? Well, it's simple. The heads add A LOT of flavor to the sauce. You can use them to make the sauce and discard them when they have served their purpose:) Now; if you can't find whole shrimp you can use only tails. But the taste is better if you use them whole.
Panos in action. Chop! Chop!
The tomatoes for making the sauce should be ripe. There's nothing better than ripe, summer tomatoes, full of aroma and flavor. Grate them and strain them. You don't have to be very thorough, you just want to remove most of the excess water. This will help you cook the sauce faster. After all, this is supposed to be an easy shrimp pasta for two. So you don't want to spend too much time cooking this, right?
In the end, we added parsley to provide freshness to the dish. You can also add grated kefalotyri. Kefalotyri is a hard white-yellowish cheese made with sheep and goat's milk. It's salty and it's perfect with pasta. It's actually one of the two cheeses we traditionally use here in Greece when serving pasta. The other one is myzithra. Kefalotyri may be hard to find abroad though; in such case choose a hard salty cheese you prefer. Provolone is a good alternative as well as pecorino.
The ingredients listed are for 2 large servings or 4 smaller ones. So, let's start making this easy summer dish! Stin iyia sas ("To your health", the Greek "Cheers")!
- 500gr / 17.5oz whole shrimps *
- 250gr / 9oz spaghetti (preferably whole wheat)
- 350gr / 12.5oz grated and strained ripe tomatoes (use a small fine sieve to drain most of the water). The weight before straining should be about 500gr / 17.5oz. You will need two medium sized tomatoes.
- 70gr / 2.5oz tomato paste (about 3 tablespoons)
- 140gr / 5oz (1 medium sized) onion, finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped or minced
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds**
- 80ml (1/3 cup) olive oil
- 60ml (1/4 cup) ouzo***
- 10gr / 0.35oz parsley, finely chopped (5-6 tablespoons)
- salt, pepper
- 50gr / 2oz grated kefalotyri or provolone (optional)
* If you can't find whole shrimp, you can also use 250gr/9oz of shrimp tails
** You can also use anise seeds instead
*** If ouzo if hard to find, use vodka. But the taste is vastly different
Cut the heads from the shrimp and keep aside. Peel and devein the tails. You can check here to see how to peel and devein.
Grate (pic.1) and strain the tomatoes in a sieve (pic. 2).
Add the olive oil in a large frying pan and place over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the onion and the fennel seeds (pic. 3, pic. 4). Stir for 3-4 minutes, until the onion is translucent.
Add the garlic (pic. 5) and the shrimp heads (pic. 6). Stir for a couple of minutes, until the heads get a nice color.
Add the grated tomatoes (pic. 7) and the tomato paste (pic. 8). Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer until the sauce starts to thicken.
At this point you can remove the heads (pic. 9). Tap them on the pan walls when removing them to avoid removing some of the sauce as well.
Increase the heat to medium, add the shrimp tails (pic. 10), stir and add the ouzo (pic. 11). Cook for 3 minutes, until the alcohol has evaporated.
Remove from heat, add the parsley, salt and pepper.
Boil the pasta for 1 minute less than the directions on the package state. Drain, keeping some of the pasta water. Add the pasta to the pan with the shrimp, adding 3 tablespoons from the water they were cooked. Mix with tongs to coat the pasta with the sauce and serve. You can also add a little grated kefalotyri or provolone.
...and of course...serve some ouzo with cold water and ice (it'll turn white and it's perfectly natural, don't be alarmed!).
Kali oreksi! Stin iyia sas!
If you want to thaw quickly frozen shrimp, in order to use it in the next half hour: fill a bowl up with tap water and let them soak. In 30 minutes they’re ready. Drain and cook.