Spaghetti Aglio e Olio with Shrimp
Why This Recipe Works
by Sasha Marx
This recipe is a mash-up of two classic and simple olive oil–centric dishes: Italian spaghetti aglio e olio (pasta with garlic, chiles, and olive oil) and Spanish gambas al ajillo (a tapa of shrimp quickly cooked in olive oil, also with garlic and chiles). Both dishes highlight the aroma-grabbing qualities of oil. Many of the grassy, fruity, nutty, cheesy, spicy, and funky aromas that we love dissolve much more readily in oil than in water. Infusing an oil with rich flavor helps carry these aromas throughout a dish.
For this recipe we up the ante on that oil infusion by first cooking the shrimp shells in the oil. Shrimp shells are rich in glutamates and free nucleotides (which add meaty depth), as well as volatile polyunsaturated fatty acids, which generate fresh, delicate flavors when cooked. To keep those flavorful volatile compounds in the dish (instead of swirling around the kitchen), we do the infusion over medium heat for just 10 minutes. The result is deep, roasted shrimp flavor and a rich orange hue. We add garlic and chiles to the oil before gently cooking the shrimp in it. All of that gets tossed with spaghetti, parsley, and a touch of lemon juice for a simple weeknight dinner that packs a ton of flavor with just a few ingredients.
Photography by Steve Klise
Food Styling by Marie Piraino