Italian cooking prizes simplicity above everything. It’s all about using delicious, fresh ingredients and not doing much to them. Simplicity doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s easy, in fact some of the most simple Italian dishes such as “Cacio e Pepe” (Pecorino Cheese and Black Pepper with Spaghetti) are extremely difficult to get correct. Fortunately this dish is both simple and easy and you should be able to have it on the table in 30 minutes from start to finish!
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Spices Used: Chilli Flakes (Gunpowder Chest).
Appox. 300G raw prawns, it doesn’t matter if you have slightly more or less
5 tbsp olive oil
6 garlic cloves
2 tsp chilli flakes
1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped into fairly fine pieces
200G Cherry Tomatoes, or other small, sweet tomatoes
1/2 tsp baking powder
20G fresh parsley
300G Linguine or Spaghetti
1 tsp salt
Begin by taking 3 medium garlic cloves and bashing them with the side of your knife to get the skins off and crush them, after bashing with the knife if you chop the bottom of the garlic off it will make it far easier to remove the skin. Deseed and chop your fresh chilli finely (note that this isn’t going in the frying pan until much later so keep them to one side.)
Add the garlic and chilli flakes to a frying pan which contains 3 tbsp of olive oil on a low heat. You are trying to impart the flavours of the garlic and chilli to your oil so do not cook anything aggressively, you don’t want the garlic to fry. Do this for about 5 minutes or so, moving the garlic around every so often. It doesn’t matter if you do it for a little longer, as long as nothing is frying.
Meanwhile chop your other garlic cloves. Take a bowl and add the prawns in with your chopped garlic. Add 2 tbsp of olive oil and 1/2 tsp of baking powder. Adding baking powder to your prawns may seem incredibly unorthodox, and it is, however this is a technique taken from Chinese cookery and applied here (see the tips section at the bottom for why adding this is an important step.) Add a tsp of salt to the bowl and mix so the prawns are well coated in everything.
Add your fresh chilli to the frying pan and turn the heat up to medium. Again make sure you aren’t frying the fresh chilli too much, you are just trying to sweeten them up and take the heat off a little before adding the prawns.
Chop your parsley, including the stalks. I cut my tomatoes in half however you can keep them whole if you’d prefer!
During this time cook your Linguine to packet instructions, ensuring you salt your water! About 1-2 tbsp of table salt will do. Cook to Al-dente.
Add your prawns to the frying pan and keep the heat on medium/medium low. You aren’t trying to sear or fry them, rather you are trying to lightly poach them in the oil. Cook for a few minutes until all the prawns have turned pinkish.
Once your pasta is finished add a tbsp or two of the pasta water to the frying pan with the prawns in. This will help turn the oil into a sauce which will better coat the spaghetti. Add your tomatoes and cook for 30 seconds, or if you’d prefer you can add them raw, your choice!
Once you’ve drained your spaghetti add it to the pan and mix it with the prawns, tomatoes, chilli’s and sauce. Add your chopped parsley and mix to ensure the spaghetti is well coated. Serve with a crack of black pepper.
“Adding Baking Powder to Prawns, really?!” I can feel people scowling with confusion at the recipe already! Don’t worry, the baking powder doesn’t flavour the prawns at all! What it does is it helps the prawn firm up a little giving it a lightly crisp bite to them instead of mushy, and they retain moisture better making them more juicy!
Always save your pasta water. The starch that comes off the pasta whilst cooking is so invaluable for helping thicken and bind pasta sauces, which helps them cling and coat pasta better.