What's the line between a delightfully simple pasta dish and a boringly spare one? For some reason, my first impulse is to toss everything I've got in the pot and hope it becomes a dynamic dish, but that almost never works. All of my favorite pasta dishes tend to be straightforward—carbonara, all'amatriciana—where you pick out a few flavorful ingredients and let them do all the hard work. That's what I tried to do here.
One bite of this dish proves that there is a lot going on. At its base, this dish is about the interplay between sweet, plump shrimp and spicy red pepper flakes. The latter is cooked with sliced garlic until it perfumes the oil, so that every bite has its slight spark. Sure, the duo makes for a good start, but it's not quite enough to carry the whole dish. Add arugula for some bitterness and for some crunch, sprinkle in some bread crumbs, which are cooked gently until they turn golden brown and crispy.
Just to add that all up, the result is spicy, sweet, bitter, and salty—not bad for such a quick and easy meal.
- 1 pound bucatini, spaghetti, or linguini
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 4 garlic cloves, sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 pound medium-sized shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 4 ounces arugula leaves, roughly chopped
- 4 tablespoons breadcrumbs (panko works well)
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
Bring a large pot of water seasoned with 2 tablespoons salt to a boil. Cook the bucatini according to the directions on the packaging. With three minutes remaining, add the arugula. When done, set aside 1/4 cup of pasta water, and drain the pasta and arugula in a colander.
Meanwhile, heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot set over medium heat until shimmering. Add shrimp, season with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until just cooked, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Add remaining tablespoon of oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Reduce heat to medium-low, and sprinkle in the breadcrumbs. Stir well to coat in the oil, and cook gently until the breadcrumbs are golden, three to four minutes. When pasta is done cooking and draining, return shrimp to the pan.
Raise heat to medium-high and toss pasta and arugula in with breadcrumbs. Add half of reserved pasta water and stir continuously until it has evaporated, about one minute. If pasta looks too dry, add more of the water and stir for another minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve the pasta with a sprinkling of chopped parsley.