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Sunday, May 19

Gapers Block

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There are two noodle dishes that have become a staple when I cook. One's simpler than the other, and they're very different in style, origin and taste. This first one is a simple dish and makes an easy quick lunch or dinner. The second one (next week) takes a bit more prep and more cooking time but the results are rich and tasty.

Pan-fried spicy shrimp over Pasta tossed with Sun-dried tomatoes
(for two)


You'll need:
1 package of large cooked or uncooked shrimp
1/2 cup of chopped or sliced sun-dried tomatoes
Half a clove of garlic or 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic
Olive oil
Cayenne powder
Lemon juice
Salt and pepper
Fresh parsley

The ingredients in this dish can be adjusted pretty easily to feed more than two people if you wish, and if you need something to whip up quickly and on the fly, this would be it.

Let's get to the shrimp. I buy the Trader Joe's frozen shrimp that comes in a package all ready to go. They have cooked and uncooked shrimp in medium, large and jumbo sizes. The large shrimp work best, because their size allows you to eat them by hand — the shrimp will top the pasta rather than be incorporated into it. Get the cooked kind (already pink) which come 35-40 in a bag (though there's no need to cook that many). Put the desired amount into a strainer or colander and run cold water over it for 10-15 minutes to thaw. You want to be sure that the shrimp is firm and supple with no feeling of ice crystals.

Once that's done, toss the shrimp in a bowl with some lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Get out a shallow pan or bowl. This is going to be a light dip and coat station. You want to put some regular flour in there and add cayenne powder. Don't add too much — you want it to look almost pink but not quite. Of course, you can adjust the amount if you'd prefer more or less heat. I like just enough heat to know it's there but not so much that it's busting out the door and kicking your ass. But to each their own!

Now, pick up a shrimp and dip it into your dip n' coat station. You want enough on the shrimp to coat it thoroughly but not be a batter. Light is the modus operandi here. When you pan fry these in a bit, you're going to want the coating to be crispy and "tight" rather than soggy and messy. Hopefully you have a plate to put the shrimp aside on.

Or you could have started to douse a pan with olive oil (2-3 tablespoons) and get it nice and heated. And instead of using that plate, drop the shrimp directly into the pan. Since they're already cooked (assuming you got cooked shrimp) all you need to do is brown the coating. Repeat with all the shrimp.

For the pasta, cook your spaghetti al dente as you would normally and in the amount you would do for as many people as you're preparing for. In this case, prep for two. You can do this while attending to the shrimp if you're all up on the multi-tasking (prepare for your future chef career!). Once it's cooked (not too cooked, you're going to cook it some more — so perhaps just shy of al dente), set it aside.

In a pan big enough to fit all that pasta, heat a good amount of olive oil on medium-high. For two, about 6 tablespoons will be good (you can add more later if you feel the pasta isn't coated enough). As that comes up to heat, get the sun-dried tomatoes in there. You want to bring the heat down to a simmer and sauté the sun-dried tomatoes lightly — careful not to burn them. Essentially the olive oil should start turning orange as the sun-dried tomato infuses it. Another good way to do this to keep handy is to throw some sun-dried tomatoes into a bottle or jar with olive oil and let it infuse over time. You could do the same with peppers, garlic, etc.

Once the olive oil and sun-dried tomatoes look properly integrated, throw the garlic in there (if you like a lot of garlic, feel free to add more) and sauté that up a bit. Add the pasta to the pan and toss everything together. Add more olive oil if the pasta looks too dry. Salt and pepper to taste.

Dish the pasta onto your serving plates of choice and top off with 8-10 pieces of shrimp and some fresh parsley on top.


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