March 23, 2013 by Jason Rice MD
This recipe was Mrs. Eats For All Ages’ idea. I asked her what she wanted for dinner, and she sent me a text message that said, “Can we have pasta with spinach, garlic, butter, mushroom and shrimp? Can Eats For All Ages Junior eat that?”
Yes, and yes.
So, off to the store I went to pick up some ingredients. As is typically the case, a few additional items looked fresh and delicious, so I added them to the list. Here’s what we ended up with…
- 3/4 lb of shrimp (I was going to be crunched on time, so I went with pre-cooked shrimp, but certainly raw will work well, if not better. More on that later)
- 16 oz pasta (I used a tri-color rotini)
- 8 oz mushrooms (white or cremini)
- 5 oz baby spinach
- 2-3 small zucchinis
- 1 sweet onion
- 6 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/2 stick butter
- 1 lemon (for juice)
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
Get a pot of water boiling for your pasta while you get ready to prep the rest of your ingredients. Once the water comes to a boil, add some salt to taste and prepare your pasta according to the directions on the package. Pull the tails off your shrimp, and set the shrimp aside. (Note: you can leave the tails on, but I find this makes it tougher for little eaters to handle.)
To prep the veggies, slice the zucchinis and mushrooms. Also slice the onion into 2 inch long ribbons (as below). Mince your garlic cloves (or measure out the appropriate amount if using minced garlic from a jar).
Wash the spinach if necessary, and set aside for now. Heat some extra virgin olive oil with a little butter in your pan (the majority of the butter will be used later). Saute the onion, zucchini and garlic until the onion and zucchini start to soften. Add the mushrooms and season everything with a little salt and pepper (seasoning in layers is important with this dish).
Once the veggies have started to cook through, add about half the remaining butter and the juice of half the lemon as well as a little more salt and pepper. Start adding the spinach in batches. It’s tough to add the whole 5 oz at once, but it cooks very quickly, and reduces greatly in size as it wilts. I did mine in about three batches.
Once the spinach is just wilted and soft, you will add the rest of the butter, the juice of the second half of the lemon and a little more pepper to make the sauce. (Yes, the sauce is basically just melted butter with lemon juice, salt and pepper…but really, what more do you need?)
Once the butter is melted, add the shrimp and toss continuously to coat everything with the butter sauce. Saute just long enough to heat the shrimp completely, but remember they’re already cooked, so you don’t want to overdo it here or the shrimp will get rubbery.
(Note: There are a few things to touch on with the shrimp in this recipe – the raw vs cooked issue, and the “You’re giving shellfish to a child?!” issue. Here’s my thoughts:
- Yes, buying shrimp raw and cooking them yourself is much tastier. But, it’s also more expensive and takes more time. There are definitely times when that’s worth it to me, like grilling. In this case, all I needed to do was season and warm the shrimp, so the pre-cooked seemed like a fair compromise. And, they were delicious.
- As for the kids and shrimp issue, I will once again point out that I am NOT a pediatrician. I have no particular expertise on this subject. I did some quick research, and followed the AAP recommendations that said it was safe over 12 months, and possibly as young as 6 months. I strongly urge you to check with your own doctor before feeding shellfish (or any food you’re unsure of) to your young child.
That’s all I have to say about that. Now, back to the food!)
Serve this in a shallow bowl over your prepared pasta and spoon a little sauce over the top. If you’re feeling bold, finish it with a little fresh basil. We chose to sprinkle a little grated parmesan over ours. (I know, cheese + seafood is against some culinary rules, but it tastes good, and that’s what counts in my kitchen!)
Our little guy was a bit unsure of the shrimp, but loved the veggies in the sauce (including the spinach). Mom and Dad scarfed the whole thing down and thought it was delicious. Despite the butter, this dish is very light, and made it feel a little more like spring might finally be coming despite temperatures in the 20s in the second half of March. For those of you who have been hesitant to work with shrimp, I hope this recipe gets you started on a long relationship with tasty crustaceans. And, for all of my readers…Enjoy!