Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Prawns and greens pasta

I occasionally used to post recipes on this blog, but haven't done so in a long time. Among other things, doing so helps me recover a forgotten recipe. The recipes I post are usually self-invented, but inspired by something I ate or read about somewhere. I only post them when the result is incredibly delicious. All the ingredients are freely available in Pune, where I live.

So if you love prawns, hop into the kitchen and get going:

Serves 2-3:

250 gm prawns, peeled and deveined
One large zucchini, diced
A handful of rucola ("rocket" or "roquette" or "arugula")
Two celery stalks cut in small pieces
3-4 tomatoes, blanched and peeled, then cut into large chunks
Long pasta (spaghetti or better, linguine or fettucine)
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small teaspoon of mashed/chopped garlic
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
1 cube of vegetable stock, crushed into a coarse powder and used in place of salt.


1. Gently warm olive oil in a pan. Add garlic and parsley. Do not overheat the oil.
2. Allow this to cook slowly until garlic is very slightly browned.
3. Add celery, then zucchini. Sprinkle with half the vegetable stock (reserve the other half until later).
4. When the zucchini starts to brown a little, add the prawns and stir. A minute later add the tomatoes and the remaining stock. Cover and keep on LOW heat for about 8-10 minutes until the zucchini starts to soften. The tomato chunks should not disintegrate and the prawns should not be overcooked.

5. Turn off the heat. The pan should contain a nice watery prawn-flavoured gravy. Add the rucola at this point. Check for salt. Do not try to evaporate or thicken the gravy.

The sauce when it's done
The final dish
6. In a pot, heat plenty of water, add a tablespoon of salt and throw in the pasta. Cook for about a minute less than recommended on the package. Then drain and mix the pasta with the sauce. Stir well and cover, with the heat either turned off or very low, for about 1-2 minutes.

7. Serve

I love this dish for its mix of bright colours and subtle flavours. What makes it special is the way the zucchini and tomatoes absorb and echo the perfume of seafood. It needs to be made with some delicacy. If you're Indian you will surely ask if it's OK to add onions, cheese or chillies. The answers are i) NO, ii) NO and iii) NO.

On the subject of cheese with pasta, I must recount a memorable dinner in Venice circa 1990 with Dutch friends. Since I speak Italian, I was doing the ordering. One of them ordered pasta with clams and then told me to ask the waiter for parmesan cheese. I said this was a no-no in Italy: no cheese with seafood. Unconvinced, she spotted some bowls of grated parmesan on a nearby shelf, picked up one, brought it to the table and spooned the cheese over her pasta. When the waiter came by next, I thought he noticed the cheese bowl but he said nothing. Afterwards my friend ordered chocolate mousse for dessert. As I conveyed this order, the waiter came very close to me and whispered: "One wonders if the lady would like parmesan cheese with that"...