I was inspired to make this dish after watching Guy Fieri prepare a “blackened chicken” dish the other day. I thought his dish sounded good, but decided to use some jumbo shrimp that I had on hand in the freezer and wanted to lighten up my dish as his was made with a lot of heavy cream. I really like using large shrimp for a recipe like this so they won’t get lost within the pasta. I’m sure you could change this up by adding additional vegetables, but this was a hit for Bill and I and it turned out delicious!
16-18 Large Jumbo Shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 Onion, chopped fine
1 Tablespoon Butter
2 Tablespoon Oil, divided
4 Garlic Cloves, pressed
14 oz. can Diced Tomatoes
2 Cups Fresh Spinach
3/4 Cup Half & Half
1/3 Cup Fresh Basil
1/2 Cup Parmesan Cheese
2/3 Cup 6 Cheese Italian Blend, shredded
1/2 lb. Wheat Spaghetti Pasta
Salt & Pepper
Blackening Dry Rub, equal parts of each:
Cayenne pepper (more or less to your preference)
Start by heating a cast iron skillet over very high heat (if you see smoke coming off the pan, you might think that’s hot enough. Wait until you see actual white spots forming on your pan; white hot.) Heat about one tablespoon of oil just to cover the bottom of the skillet. Peel and clean the shrimp, then set aside.
I used about a tablespoon of each ingredients to make the dry rub. The rinsed shrimp was moist, but not sopping wet. Add it to the dry mix, tossing and coating each shrimp evenly.
Discard the rest of the spice and brown the shrimp in the hot skillet for about three minutes on each side. I recommend a cast-iron skillet for this because it’s what Guy uses and it keeps the temperature very hot, while adding a nice grilled flavor to the dish.
Remove the cooked shrimp and set aside. Boil salted water for the pasta and cook only al dente according to the package directions. Do not rinse!
Reduce heat somewhat and use the butter and about a tablespoon of oil to clean up all of the bits at the bottom of the skillet. Add the chopped onions and cook until they become soft and translucent. Add the pressed garlic and cook for an additional two to four minutes. By doing this, you’re infusing the onions in the oil with the garlic flavor and allowing the garlic to become soft and sweet.
Add the entire can of tomatoes including the juice and add the fresh basil. Cook for another four minutes or so before adding the fresh spinach. Cover and allow the spinach to wilt. Once wilted, I transferred the entire mixture into a larger, non stick skillet before adding the half & half.
Reduce the heat and allow the cream to reduce somewhat, cooking an additional five minutes or so.
Taste and season with salt & pepper before spooning the pasta cooked shrimp back in the sauce mixture. Toss gently and turn mixing all of the ingredients.
Turn off the heat, top with the cheese and cover. Allow to sit for a few minutes so that the cheese can melt.
Plate and serve, turning the pasta into a nest. Try to make sure the shrimp are evenly distributed! This dish could easily serve four people.