I am a huge fan of black food. Think about it; Black truffles, black rice, black garlic, black quinoa and of course, black pasta have phenomenal taste and looks. I cooked squid ink pasta with prawns many times before but what really changed my cooking method was a tip I saw in Bon Appetit magazine (my cooking bible). I am sure their recipe was phenomenal, although they mentioned an ingredient I have never heard before and have no idea what it means (Nduja?).
What I really liked about that recipe were the chopped prawns. For some reason, cooking prawns whole seems to be the norm. But chopping them is genius! I mean, don’t you just sometimes hate eating wonderful pasta and having to bite into a huge piece of prawn instead of having a small piece in every bite, in every fork-roll of pasta?
So, I chopped my prawns. And it worked perfectly! The sauce was more like a ragout and the prawns were distributed evenly. Ok, I admit I did leave a few whole but that was only for presentation purposes. The chili flakes are not optional, not on this blog. This pasta begs for some heat and chili is what you will add if you want to woo your guests. A generous sprinkling of freshly chopped parsley is all you need for a great presentation. Serve it with pride.
- 24 unpeeled medium sized prawns
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 5 fat garlic cloves, sliced
- 15 cherry tomatoes
- 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
- ½ cup rose wine (or white wine)
- 1 cup grated tomatoes from a can
- 1 tsp sugar
- ¼ tsp chili flakes
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup chopped parsley
- 500 grams squid ink tagliatelli or spaghetti
Peel the prawns. Leave 8 whole if you wish (for presentation purposes). Put the heads and shells in a small pot. Fill it up with water and boil for 30 minutes. Drain, keep liquid and discard shells and heads. Set aside until needed.
Chop prawns into bite size pieces and keep in a bowl.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Keep it at simmering point until needed.
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and sauté stirring occasionally until golden and fragrant. Remove garlic with a slotted spoon. Set aside until needed.
Increase heat to medium-high and add the cherry tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally until the skin breaks and they start to release their juices. Add the bell pepper and cook together, 5 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until pepper is soft and tomatoes begin to colour in places.
Add wine and increase heat to high. Let it boil for about 1 minute and then add the grated tomatoes and sugar, together with ½ cup from the water you boiled the heads and shells. Add the sautéed garlic and stir in the chili flakes. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer uncovered for about 5 minutes until sauce has reduced and thickened slightly. Keep sauce over low heat.
Bring the simmering water back to a boil and add the pasta. Cook 2 minutes less that the cooking time indicated on the packet. 2 minutes before the pasta is done, add the whole prawns (if using) to the sauce. Leave to cook for 1 minute. Then add the chopped prawns and stir through.
Drain the pasta (reserve some of the pasta cooking water) and add to the pan with the sauce. Add the chopped parsley and mix everything together. Stir over low heat for about a minute to mix the flavours and let the pasta absorb this wonderful sauce. Garnish with more chopped parsley and serve at once.