Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Pasta Shapes and Picky Eaters

I'm of the opinion that there are few- if any- better shapes of pasta than cavatappi.

Not only are those corkscrews fun to to look at, the mouthfeel can't be beat.

Yes, I said "mouthfeel."  It's the only word that really works.  The textured outside, hollow inside, and curly shape are just perfection.  It's the only pasta shape I will ever use to make my famous macaroni and cheese.

The folds and frilly edges of farfalle are fun and the ruffled, bell-shaped twists of campanelle are wonderful as well.

But cavatappi...in my mind, it's pretty much pasta perfection.

Feeding my family can be frustrating.

My son, with his sensory issues and endlessly frustrating limited diet, rarely eats what the rest of us eat.  Both my husband and my daughter would be perfectly content with a more meat-and-potatoes type diet- possibly even minus the potatoes.  I myself am more of a grazer, a snacker, a light-meal eater.  My husband doesn't like shredded chicken, cooked spinach, chickpeas, lima beans, water chestnuts, curry (or so he claims), eggplant, most of what he refers to as "frou frou foods" that I like to cook, weird flavors, exotic cuisines, casseroles with tortillas or any other carb-y food that has gotten the least bit soft in cooking, tomato-based soup broths, quiche, sweet potatoes, beets, real sourdough bread, artichokes, white pizza, frittatas, arugula or other bitter-ish greens, beets, cooked celery, roasted broccoli, stuffed peppers of any kind, overly saucy foods, overly sweet sauces...you get the picture.  My daughter doesn't like a similarly long list of foods that does not at all overlap with the list of foods my husband doesn't like.

Yet they both insist they're easy to feed.  Ha!

The other day I was looking for recipes that my daughter might enjoy and I came across a recipe for Peppered Shrimp Alfredo.
That kid loves Alfredo.  She first tried chicken fettuccini Alfredo when it was served at a mother/daughter dinner at church a few years ago and it was love at first bite.
Me...not so much.  But I wanted something that she would enjoy.
Not only does this recipe have Alfredo sauce, it has shrimp, another one of her favorites.
Granted, it does have bell pepper and mushrooms- which she doesn't like but my husband and I do...but I figured if I just left the pieces large enough that she could pick out we could all enjoy the meal.

Now, I've done a lot of cooking in my life.
Like...a lot.
I've made a lot of dishes that were very, very good- and some that were complete wastes of time and ingredients.

This dish is one of the best things I've ever made.
For real.

Knowing my love of cavatappi, I did sub it for the penne the recipe originally called for.  Penne is just so boring.

Most people don't think this much about pasta shapes, do they?
Maybe they should- t's a subject worth contemplating.  Pasta shape can have such an influence over a meal.

Anyway, this dish really, truly was phenomenal.  Not healthy, certainly heavier than I normally indulge in.  But so very good, and a meal that most of my family happily inhaled.

12 oz cavatappi pasta
1/4 C butter
2 Tbs[ extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 lb portobello mushrooms, diced
1 lb medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 (15 oz) jar Alfredo sauce
1/2 C grated Romano cheese
1/2 C cream
1 tsp cayenne pepper, or more to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 C chopped parsley

1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.

2. Meanwhile, melt butter together with the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in onion, and cook until softened and translucent, about 2 minutes. Stir in garlic, red pepper, and mushroom; cook over medium-high heat until soft, about 2 minutes more.

3. Stir in the shrimp, and cook until firm and pink, then pour in Alfredo sauce, Romano cheese, and cream; bring to a simmer stirring constantly until thickened, about 5 minutes. Season with cayenne, salt, and pepper to taste. Stir drained pasta into the sauce, and serve sprinkled with chopped parsley.

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