This pasta is one of those that you can just eat and eat and eat, it tastes light and fresh but filling at the same time. I never get bored of it. The balance between the prawn and chilli, lemon and garlic, make it pretty much perfect. When I order it in restaurants I often have to ask for extra chilli and lemon, so even if you think you know how this tastes, you should try making it at home as you might be surprised!
The Italians love their pasta. In Italy you can get pasta in all shapes and sizes, rows of it numbered in supermarkets that show the exact length, width and shape. Colours, shapes, sizes, textures so varied it’s almost dizzying. It’s no wonder that in the UK we tend to stick to our penne and spaghetti. Linguine is a classic Italian pasta that originated from Genoa. One of the simplest and oldest pasta shapes, it is still a firm favourite among Italians even though they now have over 600 types to choose from. Linguine looks a lot like spaghetti but it’s got a flattened shape that gives it a different texture – a bit stickier, and less slippery. While spaghetti is eaten mostly with tomato and meat based dishes, linguine is usually paired with seafood. The traditional Linguine Alle Vongole (spaghetti with clams) can be eaten in most restaurants throughout Genoa. The word ‘linguine’ means ‘little tongues’, which doesn’t sound that appetising! However, it’s absolutely delicious and well worth trying as an alternative to spaghetti or penne if you’re bored of the ‘normal’ pastas. I find it easier to eat, and easier to coat with the pasta sauce.
Although it’s not always included, a common addition to this meal is rucola, or rocket as we call it in English. If adding rocket, you want to stir it in right at the end so it slightly wilts just before eating but doesn’t lose its flavour. The tangy, pepperiness of rocket and its leafy texture add a nice extra layer of taste. You end up with the perfect balance of lemon, chilli, garlic, wine and pepper. Good, fresh prawns shouldn’t actually taste ‘fishy’ so they contribute more to the texture and bite than they do to the flavour, although you do get that subtle sea saltiness from them as well.
The Italian name for this dish is Linguine ai Gamberetti. Like all good Italian dishes, it’s surprisingly simple and the success of the dish is dependent upon the quality of the ingredients, coupled with the confidence and love that you put into your cooking. Timing is also really important with this dish; make sure to prep all your ingredients in advance so that you can chuck them into the pan as and when needed.
I can’t find any specific references to the origin of this pasta, but all along the coastlines of Italy you will find it in traditional and modern restaurants. It’s served as a Primi – meaning a first main course, after the appetiser. Italians usually have a minimum of four courses to their meals, and their pasta course is eaten before the meat (Secondi). It sounds decadent but the portion sizes are smaller than we’d eat for a main meal, so you never end up overly stuffed! They also skip breakfast and just have coffee, so the calories balance out over the day, right? The carbohydrate content of the overall meal is usually smaller than we’d eat too. Often the Primi incorporate fish or seafood into the pasta, as can be seen in this dish. Sometimes, they split the meal into five courses and have the appetiser, fish, pasta, meat and then dessert! And sometimes the coffee course has sweets too. Italians love their food and dinners are an important part of Italian culture, often lasting upwards of three hours and allowing friends or family to catch up and unwind for the evening.
WHAT YOU NEED
Where possible, try to buy local, seasonal and grass fed/ organic/free range ingredients. Apart from it being better to support local businesses and high welfare farming practises, it does make a huge difference to the taste of your food!
300g good quality raw peeled king prawns
1 onion, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 lemon, very finely zested – I use a microplane for this
300g cherry tomatoes, halved
Splash of white wine
Salt and pepper, to taste
250g linguine pasta
Good quality extra virgin olive oil
50g rocket (optional)
Prep Time: 5 mins
Cooking Time: 10 mins
- Put your pasta in boiling water. The sauce only takes a few minutes to cook, so you want the pasta to be ready at the same time. Add a drop of oil to the water to stop it from sticking. Take it out as soon as it’s ready, at which time you want your sauce to be roughly ready too.
- Prepare all your ingredients while your oil is heating in a heavy frying pan on a high heat. If the prawns are frozen, you don’t need to thaw them, you can just add them to the sauce as it cooks – but bear in mind they will release water and make the sauce more liquidy, which in turn means you’ll need to cook it down a bit longer to intensify the flavour.
- Fry your onions with a large pinch of salt until they turn translucent. Add in the chilli, lemon zest and garlic, and stir until fragrant. Add the prawns and turn them around so they sizzle and coat in oil and start turning pink.
- Once the mixture is hot and almost dry (about 1-2 minutes), add a large splash of wine and cook it off, it should steam upwards and release a cloud of aromas from the pan.
- Add the tomatoes and toss them around the pan, cooking them just enough to blister the skins, so they don’t go soft but aren’t acidic to taste.
- The pasta should be ready, check it is firm but cooked through, not sticky or soft and not still hard in the middle. Drain it and add it to the pan, toss it around so it is coated in the wine sauce and stir in the rocket if you’re using it. Finish off with a drizzle of lemon juice and serve immediately.
LF – this dish is naturally lactose free
GF – use gluten free pasta
V – omit the prawns, you can add in another vegetable such as fennel to complement the tomatoes
Ve – omit the prawns, you can add in another vegetable such as fennel to complement the tomatoes