I think you’ve had weeks like this. Tired of being the only person who attacks the Sisyphean piles of clothes around the house, you begin the week by deciding to go on a laundry strike, a job action somewhat thwarted by the realization that you are the only person disturbed by the absence of clean socks, as others simply turn to flip flops.
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Next you volunteer to “watch the kids” backstage during the middle school play, which devolves into two hours of sheer terror as you attempt to turn a child dressed as a feather duster into a human, which involves approximately 35 safety pins in the pitch dark, and shove a 13-year-old boy wearing large furry gloves into a tux jacket two minutes before their next respective scenes, tasks for which you were given four minutes of training and occurring while another child, pantless and about to go on stage, informs you that she has lost her skirt.
You put too much meat in a Bolognese.
All the while, the mid-career butterflies beat endlessly against you, causing no fatal blows, but reminding you one smack at a time that your professional destiny is no longer really under your control.
Too tired to think about planning meals last Sunday, I arrived at this recipe by turning the fish section of the recipes over to the incipient (last seen gnawing on a lamb chop for the first time in her life at a food52 potluck, so irresistible was it) and she picked two dishes. I lacked a crucial ingredient for one, which I will feature next week, but dug right into this pasta.
I do not think I will be hurting the feelings of the incredibly gifted TasteFood by pointing out that this dish is not exactly revelatory. Most of us at some point have probably thrown some shrimp and vegetables into pasta to create an instant meal in a bowl, and know that crushed red pepper flakes are the secret to whipping a simple dish into a bit of a frenzy.
But I loved the reminder of this technique, bolstered by the broccolini, a vegetable I tend to forget about and am always happy to have land in front of me. Further, this is a dish that someone in your house, even a kid, can whip up for you if you’ve managed to, say, end up on a train that “will be moving shortly.”
This is one of those dishes that require little mise-en-place -- you really can just keep opening cans, pulling out jars and rinsing off your shrimp as things sizzle in the pan. I used more shrimp than the recipe called for, simply because I did not weigh them as I grabbed them, and I recommend against this, because they crowded my dish.
What I would suggest however is doubling the broccolini, because it is almost impossible to have too much of it, and it cooks down a bit in all of this. I also prefer closer to a heaping teaspoon of red pepper flakes in the beginning, but that is totally to taste.
Clean up for this is easy -– especially if you make someone else do it -– and I was left with two healthy servings for sack lunch, which is an excellent way to start the week.
1/2 cup whole basil leaves (torn in half if large)
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add spaghetti and cook until al dente. Drain.
While the pasta is cooking, heat one tablespoon olive oil with 1/2 teaspoon chili pepper flakes in a skillet over medium heat. Add shrimp in one layer. Cook until pink on both sides and just cooked through, 2-3 minutes. Transfer shrimp to a plate.
Add one tablespoon olive oil to same skillet. Add broccolini and sprinkle with one teaspoon salt and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Sauté until crisp tender. Transfer broccolini to another plate.
Add one tablespoon olive oil to skillet. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, one teaspoon salt and one teaspoon black pepper. Simmer 10 minutes, breaking tomatoes apart with a spoon. Taste and if necessary add a pinch of sugar. Stir in shrimp and broccoli; remove from heat. Add spaghetti and toss to combine.
Transfer spaghetti to a serving bowl. Scatter cheese and basil leaves over pasta and toss one more time. Add a grinding of black pepper. Serve along with extra Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
By day, Jennifer Steinhauer, aka Jenny, covers Congress for The New York Times. By night, she is an obsessive cook.
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).