Pan-Seared Shrimp and Scallops over Pasta with Vodka Sauce

Pasta with Vodka Sauce is a rich dish. When it is topped with pan-seared shrimp or scallops it is even better. To make an extra creamy vodka sauce use an immersion blender to make the marinara smooth before adding the cream and Parmesan to the sauce.

Penne pasta is a good shape to use for this dish because it holds so much of the decadent sauce. Ample Bites prefers using a rough, wide-cut homemade noodle similar to a linguine but a bit more rustic.

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Pan-Seared Shrimp over Pasta with Vodka Sauce
(Mark Kelly, 2013)

Serves 4

1 pound large pasta shapes
3 cups Marinara Sauce (see below)
1 cup vodka
1/2 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 lb large (20-24) shrimp, peeled and deveined
Extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 350F.

Pat shrimp dry and season with pepper.

In a large heavy skillet or Dutch oven simmer the marinara sauce and vodka over low heat, stirring often, until the mixture reduces by one-fourth, about 20 minutes.

While the sauce is simmering, in a large oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat, bring 2 tablespoons of oil to a shimmer. In batches, sear the shrimp on both sides until cooked through, adding oil as needed. Remove to a plate and keep warm in a 200F oven or warming drawer.

Also, boil and drain the pasta reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water.

Stir the cream into the marinara and continue to simmer over low heat until the sauce is heated through. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the Parmesan, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Taste the sauce and season with more salt and pepper to taste.

Place the sauce back over low heat. Add the pasta and toss to coat. Add the pasta water and simmer, tossing occasionally until the sauce is thickened.

To serve, place a portion of the pasta on a plate. Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese and top with shrimp. Serve immediately.

Marinara Sauce

Makes about 2 quarts

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus 3 tablespoons, divided
½ cup dry red wine
2 small onions, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 (32 ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
1 pound dried whole-wheat spaghetti or linguine
2 dried bay leaves

In a large casserole pot, heat the ½ cup of oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the celery, carrots, and the sea salt and black pepper. Sauté until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, wine, and bay leaves and simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour. Remove and discard bay leaves.

The sauce can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, then cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium heat before using.

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Eggplant (or Veal) Parmesan

Ample Bites loves both eggplant parmesan and veal parmesan. The recipe below is written for eggplant but you can easily adapt it to veal by replacing the eggplant with eight thinly-sliced veal cutlets, pounded flat. Or, crazy as this might sound, do half eggplant and half veal by replacing one of the eggplants with four cutlets. Whichever way you do it … you can’t go wrong.

The keys to this dish are making your own marinara sauce and using fresh mozzarella. Resist the temptation to buy a canned sauce and make your own it is really easy and you can do it while the eggplant is salted.

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Eggplant Parmesan
(Mark Kelly, 2013)

Serves 4 to 6

2 medium eggplants, cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
Kosher salt
5 cups fresh breadcrumbs
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp dried thyme
Freshly ground black pepper
Canola oil for frying
6 large eggs, beaten
Extra-virgin olive oil
2/3 cup grated Parmesan, divided
1 lb fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced

For Marinara Sauce:
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
½ medium onion, diced (about 1/3 cup)
5 cloves garlic, chopped
7 cups whole, peeled canned tomatoes in puree (about two 28 oz. cans), roughly chopped
2 sprigs thyme
2 sprigs basil
1 Tbsp Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

To make the marinara sauce: Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute the onion and garlic, stirring, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and the herb sprigs and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.

Remove and discard the herbs. Stir in the salt and season with pepper. Using an immersion blender break up the tomatoes and blend to a smooth consistency.

Use immediately, or refrigerate, covered for up to three days, or freeze for up to two months.

To make the eggplant parmesan: Arrange the eggplant on baking sheets and sprinkle generously with salt. Set aside to let the juices weep from the eggplant, about 1 hour.

Transfer the eggplant to a colander in the sink and rinse well under cold water. Transfer the eggplant to work surface and blot with paper towels.

In a large bowl, whisk together the breadcrumbs, oregano, thyme and season with salt and pepper.

In a large Dutch oven, pour oil to a depth of about ½-inch. Heat oil over medium heat until it reaches 400F.

Preheat oven to 400F.

Place the breadcrumbs in a rimmed dish large enough to hold two eggplant rounds at a time. Working in batches, fry the eggplant rounds, turning once, until golden brown, about 3 minutes per batch. Using tongs, transfer to a paper towel-lined baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Repeat with the remaining eggplant.

Lightly brush a two 15 x 10 x 2-inch baking dishes with olive oil. Cover the bottom of the baking dishes with marinara sauce and arrange the eggplant rounds, in a single layer, in each dish. Scatter the Parmesan over the eggplant and then place two slices of mozzarella on top of each eggplant round. Pour marinara sauce around the eggplant until the it is roughly even with the top of each slice. Reserve the remaining marinara.

Bake until the cheese is just beginning to brown, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately with reheated reserved marinara sauce.

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No Need to Ever Buy Marinara Sauce Again

The convenience of buying a tomato-based pasta sauce off the shelf causes us to overlook the depth of flavor that comes from making our own sauce. Try this simple marinara sauce and you may never buy your sauce again.

Pasta Marinara with Grilled Chicken Breasts
(Mark Kelly, 2012)

Serves 4

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus 3 tablespoons, divided
½ cup dry red wine
2 small onions, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 (32 ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
1 pound dried whole-wheat spaghetti or linguine
2 dried bay leaves
4 fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped, for garnish
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Kosher salt

In a large casserole pot, heat the ½ cup of oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the celery, carrots, and the sea salt and black pepper. Sauté until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, wine, and bay leaves and simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour.

While sauce is thickening, heat grill to medium heat. Brush the chicken breasts with the remaining olive oil and season both sides of each piece of meat with salt and pepper. Place chicken on the grill for 4 to 5 minutes, turn once and continue grilling for 2 to 4 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken to a cutting board and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing on a diagonal.

Boil and drain the pasta and place the pasta in a large bowl.

Remove and discard the bay leaf from the marinara sauce. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper, to taste. Pour enough sauce over the pasta to thoroughly coat and toss to mix.

To serve, place equal portions of the pasta on a serving plates, layer with ladle full of sauce, place sliced chicken on top and garnish with basil.

Serve with crusty bread and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

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