Thursday, March 3, 2011

BRINGING AMALFI’S HOME: Shrimp And Radicchio Pasta

My husband and I spent four nights alone in Puerto Rico. Isn’t that the most obnoxious sentence you have ever read? I’ll confess it was truly a paradise of sun, cocktails, and Mofongo (that's nothing naughty, just a really tasty Puerto Rican dish of fried yucca and seafood or meat)

As I was basking in the afterglow of our lovely escape, reality promptly arrived at my door. There was weight to be lost, bills to pay, and two sick children to which to tend. In other words, I felt a strong urge to belly-ache though I had no justifiable reason to belly ache. So belly ache I did not.

Instead, I metaphorically returned to Mom’s and my favorite escape. I recreated the storied Amalfi’s in my own home (one with whiny sick children and dirty laundry).

By the time, I graduated from college, Amalfi’s had evolved from dependable pizza joint into swanky Italian restaurant. Mom had remained so loyal throughout this transition she attended the owner’s wedding.

We often went to swishy Amalfi’s when I came for weekend visits. There, over plates of piping hot fresh pasta and wine, we would –as Mom used to say—“solve the problems of the world.” Jeanne was a champ at such marathon conversations, and I can hold my own. We reviewed family history, analyzed personalities and, once, even hatched a plan for me to scrounge up enough cash to pay rent on my first NYC apartment.

As we conspired, the wait staff fawned over Mom brandishing us with complimentary treasures from the kitchen. Bruschetta, antipasta, and glasses of port. They practically dangled grapes above Mom like Cleopatra. (Speaking of whom, I just read a fascinating biography of Cleopatra, by Stacy Schiff. Give it whirl and let me know what you think.)

My favorite was a shrimp dish served over tender fresh pasta with radicchio and mushrooms in Madeira wine sauce. It’s a dish I have been recreating ever since I got my own kitchen. So, naturally, when I spotted some tasty looking homemade linguine at the farmer’s market, my mind immediately drifted to those dreamy evenings. I scooped up the pasta, grabbed radicchio at a neighboring table and dashed home.

Rather than Madeira, I went for Pernod anise mainly because we spent $30 on a huge bottle and never use it. Pernod was a genius move, adding a dash of licorice flavor to offset the bitter radicchio. The pasta, however, was the star of this dish. Made by Hudson Valley Farmhouse, it was both airy and chewy creating the ideal mattress upon which my lovely shrimp could rest.

As for the meal that ensued, let’s put it in terms of a resort brochure or perhaps one of those old Calgon commercials: “Upon first bite, I was immediately transported to another time and place. Take me away!!”

Then I looked up and heard feverish children whining. Vacation’s over, baby.


Serves 4


1 Tbsp of olive oil

  • 1 lb of shrimp, cleaned with tails on
  • 1 head of radicchio, cut into 1 inch wide strips
  • 2 cups of mushrooms, preferably Crimini, stemmed and sliced
  • 1 smallish Vidalia onion, halved and sliced thin
  • 2 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • ¼ cup cooking sherry
  • ¼ cup Pernod (or Marsala wine)
  • 1 lb fresh pasta, cooked and drained
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Heat olive oil in large pan over medium high heat

Sprinkle shrimp with salt and pepper, and add to pan. Cook briefly until shrimp is slightly browned. Remove shrimp, cover with tin foil and set aside.

Add garlic and onions, cooking over medium high heat until soft

Add mushroom, cook until begin to soften

Add radicchio, cook until begin to soften (may cover pan)

Turn heat up to high and add sherry and Pernot. Scrape extra bits off of pan’s bottom. Cook on high until liquid reduced by half.

Reduce heat and return shrimp to pan, cover. Cook until just opaque.

Toss pasta with shrimp and veggies.

You can garnish with parmesan and parsley if you feel fancy.


  1. Great post.....must try recipe. I just read Cleopatra and really enjoyed it. So well done

  2. Thanks! FYI, you can use frozen shrimp. I usually do. The stuff you get at fish counter is often the same as frozen, just thawed. I keep a bag of frozen shrimp in my freezer for last minute dinners etc.


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