pasta · seafood

Spicy Shrimp Pasta

There isn’t much left in the world, food-wise, that I haven’t at least tried. If you haven’t noticed by reading my blog, I’ll eat and cook just about anything.

So when I came face to face with a bulb of fennel, I knew I had to do something with it. It may just be one of the last remaining vegetables I have never had the pleasure of eating! Something about its green spindly fronds and onion-like body called out to me and my sense of intrigue.

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I scooped up two bulbs and went on about my way. I’ve had this spicy shrimp pasta recipe brewing in the back of my recipe box for quite some time now, so I knew I had to give it a whirl. I have to say, though, I was a bit apprehensive about using fennel. I loathe fennel seeds. If I sense a fennel seed anywhere around me, I’ll run as fast as I can in the opposite direction. Well, that may be a bit of an overstatement. But I do hate them. They’re gross, licorice-tasting little striped seeds of doom. Bleh.

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Fennel bulb, on the other hand, has a much more demure taste. That sweet, aromatic licorice-taste is downplayed, and it actually tastes more like basil. I was shocked with how much more bearable fennel bulb is compared to fennel seeds.

This pasta dish is so simple, but extremely flavorful. Tomato, fennel, basil & crushed red pepper really shine through in this dish. The shrimp really soaks up the delicious sauce. You can tweak the recipe to your liking to make it more spicy or less spicy. I’d go for more spicy, though. You can never go wrong with that!

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Spicy Shrimp Pasta

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 30 mins
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

A spicy, tomato-based pasta dish with succulent shrimp and aromatic fennel.

Ingredients

  • salt
  • 1 lb. gnocchi pasta (or other small, shell-like pasta)
  • 2 TBS. olive oil
  • 1 small fennel bulb, cored and sliced, fronds roughly chopped and set aside
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 TBS. tomato paste
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 1 lb. large shrimp, peeled, deveined & roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan, plus more for serving
  • 1 cup fresh basil, torn

Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook as the label directs. Reserve 1.5 cups cooking water, then drain.
  2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sliced fennel and 1/2 tsp. salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown (about 6-8 minutes). Reduce the heat to medium and add the garlic, tomato paste and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring, two more minutes. Stir in the tomato, shrimp, pinch of salt and 1 cup of the reserved cooking water. Bring to a simmer and cook until the tomatoes are saucy, about 6-7 more minutes.
  3. Add the pasta and cheese to the sauce and toss to coat. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and more of the reserved pasta water to loosen, if necessary. Stir in the basil leaves and fennel fronds.

Step-By-Step Instructions

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Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook as the label directs. Reserve 1.5 cups cooking water and then drain.

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Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chopped fennel bulb and 1/2 tsp. salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 6-8 minutes.

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Reduce the heat to medium and add the garlic, tomato paste and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring, 2 more minutes. Stir in the tomato, shrimp, pinch of salt, and 1 cup of the reserved cooking water.

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Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are saucy, about 6-7 minutes.

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Add the pasta and cheese to the sauce and toss to coat. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and more of the reserved pasta water to loosen, if necessary. Stir in the basil leaves and fennel fronds.

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