Seafood has always been central to Venetian cuisine. The earliest Venetians were skilled fisherman and their diet relied heavily on the bounty found in the city’s lagoon ecosystem.
And while the Veneto may not be as famous for pasta dishes as some other regions, spaghettini con le schie is a Venetian celebration of the uniquely delicious small shrimp found in their waters.
While shrimp of this size found stateside are often unappealing (lacking in flavour and quality), we loved the sweet, briny flavours and ease of this dish and decided to develop a simple shrimp pasta that would taste just as good in our kitchens.
We began by halving large shrimp, which have reliably good flavour. We then reinforced the shrimp presence by first cooking the shrimp shells in oil and wine. Shrimp shells are rich in glutamates, which add meaty depth, as well as volatile fatty acids, which generate fresh, delicate flavours when cooked.
The result was a deeply flavoured shrimp sauce. Some garlic, butter, lemon zest, and fresh parsley were all we needed to finish this flavourful weeknight dish.
SPAGHETTINI WITH SHRIMP
Start to finish: 30 minutes
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds large shrimp (26 to 30 per pound), peeled, deveined, and halved crosswise, shells reserved
1 cup dry white wine
5 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest, plus lemon wedges for serving
1 pound spaghettini or thin spaghetti
Heat 1/4 cup oil in 12-inch skillet over high heat until shimmering. Add shrimp shells and cook, stirring frequently, until they begin to turn spotty brown, 2 to 4 minutes. Off heat, carefully add wine. Once bubbling subsides, return skillet to medium heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Strain wine mixture through fine-mesh strainer into large bowl, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible; discard solids. (You should have about 2/3 cup wine mixture.) Wipe skillet clean with paper towels.
Heat remaining oil and garlic in now-empty skillet over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until garlic is fragrant and just beginning to brown, about 30 seconds. Add reserved wine mixture and 1/2 teaspoon salt and bring to simmer. Add shrimp, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until just opaque, about 2 minutes. Off heat, stir in parsley, butter, and lemon zest.
Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts of water to boil in large pot. Add pasta and 1 tablespoon salt and cook, stirring often, until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, then drain pasta and return it to pot. Add sauce and toss to coat. Adjust consistency with reserved cooking water as needed. Season with pepper to taste. Serve with lemon wedges.