I decided to make a garlicy shrimp pasta the other night, but the dish sort of morphed into something other than the scampy-like dish I’d originally envisioned. Instead, this is what I came up with for our dinner. Bacon and shrimp with fresh spinach and garden tomatoes all tossed with a light wine cream sauce. And some garlic too…I didn’t forget the original intent entirely.
Recently, I was reminiscing with Mr. Saucy and some friends about a birthday dinner I prepared for him when we were dating. Half a million years ago…or about that…it was coming up on Mr. Saucy’s birthday, so I asked him where he’d like to go for his birthday dinner. I was anticipating he’d request a restaurant. Instead, he said he’d like to go backpacking to our favorite spot in the Great Smoky Mountains.
When we began dating, Mr. Saucy had graduated to car camping and didn’t backpack camp any more. I changed that and we spent many delightful days in the back country. This request for his birthday was thrilling for me, as it represented that he really did enjoy our time trekking and camping in the mountains. I, of course, agreed.
What Mr. Saucy didn’t know was I wanted him to have a special birthday dinner, nonetheless. So, I surreptitiously packed his surprise into my pack. I put in china, crystal, silver, a damask table-cloth, candles, some bottles of wine and all the fresh ingredients I’d need to prepare a pasta dish. This pasta dish…or one very similar.
Normally, on the trail, I’d hike far ahead of Mr. Saucy. I have very long legs, so I ate up ground far faster than he did. On this trip, however, loaded down with all this extra “gear” I lagged behind. He was worried, as this was quite abnormal for me. I assured him I was fine, but he was concerned. When we arrived at the campsite, I sent him off to fish with the excuse that I’d rest for a bit.
Instead, I covered a therma-rest mattress with the damask cloth and set the “table” for dinner. I chilled the wine by submerging the bottles in the nearby stream. I put the bacon on to cook, peeled the shrimp and chopped the garlic. Just as I was sauteeing the garlic, Mr. Saucy returned, unexpectedly, from his fishing. He’d smelled the cooking! Surprised isn’t the word I’d use to describe his reaction. His response?
“Girlfriend!!!! You’re going to attract every bear in the Park with these smells!!!!!”
We didn’t. It was a delightful time. The wine was delicious, the pasta was never more perfect…in all the times I’ve tried to recreate it since…and his birthday was the best time.
I have but two comments to make about that experience in hindsight:
- These types of efforts only happen when one is dating.
- Empty wine bottles do NOT weigh any less than full ones, when they are being packed OUT of a camping trip.
This pasta is so quick, so easy, so delicious. I hope you’ll try it!
- 3 slices thick cut bacon, diced, crisped
- ½ pound shrimp, peeled
- salt and pepper
- 1 large clove garlic, minced
- ½ cup dry white wine
- ½ cup chicken stock
- ½ cup cream (or half & half)
- pinch red pepper flakes
- pinch Italian herbs blend
- 7 small (golf-ball sized) tomatoes, halved (or 3 Romas - quartered)
- 6 ounces fresh spinach, roughly chopped
- 8 ounces linguine (or dry pasta of your choice) cooked according to package instructions, drained
- Set a medium-sized sauce pan of salted water on to boil for the pasta.
- In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the diced bacon until crispy.
- Remove to a small bowl.
- Sprinkle the shrimp with kosher salt and ground pepper and cook in the bacon fat until the shrimp is opaque. (This doesn't take long...don't overcook. I used 10 count shrimp per pound, they are large, and it took about 2 minutes per side.)
- Remove to a small bowl.
- Add the minced garlic to the bacon fat and saute for about a minute.
- Add the white wine to the skillet and scrape up any bits from the bottom of the pan.
- Simmer for about a minute.
- Add the chicken stock, cream, red pepper flakes, Italian herb blend and salt and pepper, to taste.
- Simmer on medium-low heat until you have 3 minutes left on the pasta cooking time.
- Add the tomatoes and spinach to the cream sauce.
- Stir just until the spinach wilts and the tomatoes heat through (about 3 minutes).
- Remove from the heat. Taste the sauce and adjust seasonings, if needed.
- Add the cooked, drained pasta to the cream sauce and toss with tongs.
- Remove to a large serving bowl.
- Sprinkle with the bacon bits and shrimp.
- Serve immediately.