We’ve been pining for summer weather here in Boston. It’s been cold, dreary, and drizzly for days. This pasta salad is like a little dose of summer—it’s cool, creamy, and an absolutely fabulous thing to bring to a picnic or barbecue. Assuming, that is, that the sun ever comes out.
Here’s how to put this pasta salad together—as well as a step-by-step guide for how to clean and de-vein fresh shrimp. My recipe calls for about a pound of fresh shrimp, but scale the amount up or down to fit your budget and what looks good at the fish market.
I like to make it with fresh fettuccine, but use any kind of pasta you like.
For the fresh goat feta, I used cheese that I picked up on a recent adventure to Sweet Pea Farm in Connecticut. (More on that to come soon.)
If you can’t find goat feta, swap in any fresh goat cheese you can find—you may just need to add less of it, depending on how salty the cheese you choose is. (Fresh goat feta is very mild.)
On to the recipe!
Pasta Salad with Shrimp, Goat Feta, and Basil
1 lb fresh fettuccine (or other pasta you like)
3/4 – 1 lb. large fresh shrimp
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 tsp. fresh rosemary, minced
1 clove garlic, mashed
1 cup fresh goat cheese feta
1 cup basil, loosely packed
freshly cracked black pepper
1 Tbls. chives, minced
Cook and drain the pasta
Bring a large pot of water to boil on the stove. Add your pasta.
Toss in a little salt.
Cook until it’s done to your liking. (I shoot for a little on the al dente side.)
When your pasta is cooked, drain it. Then rinse it well with cold water until it’s cold to the touch. (That’s important, and will help keep your pasta from getting gummy and clumping together.)
Transfer the pasta to a large mixing bowl when it’s drained.
Set it aside while you deal with the shrimp.
How to clean and de-vein fresh shrimp
Now, technically, you can eat the whole shrimp—shell and vein and feet and all. (We just saw Duff Goldman from Charm City Cakes raving about fried shrimp heads on TV, in fact.) Most folks however, like to remove the vein for aesthetic reasons.
So! Grab your shrimp. Keep them cold while you clean them by setting them in a bowl of ice. (To make this operation even easier, shell and de-vein your shrimp in the sink, under cold running water.)
Pull the shell away from the body of the shrimp, including all the little feet, if they’re still attached. Pull the tail off gently, so you don’t rip off much of the meat.
Your shrimp should look about like this:
Flip him around and take a look at his back. You should see a black line running down the center. This may be fat or thin (so thin that it’s barely visible), depending on the shrimp.
Make a shallow slice along the black line with a small, sharp knife.
Your shrimp should look about like this:
Spread the shrimp apart. You should see that icky, black line.
Scrape or pull it out with your knife, so it’s totally gone, like this:
Repeat with your other shrimp. Keep them on ice as you finish them to ensure they stay cold.
How to cook the shrimp
Shrimp are easy to overcook. But they don’t have to be. For this dish, I use gentle heat and don’t walk away from the stove while they’re in the pan.
Put the olive oil, garlic, and rosemary in a large non-stick pan. Give it a stir. Set it on the stove over medium heat for a minute or two to help release the flavors into the oil.
Add the shrimp.
Cook them for maybe 2 minutes on this side.
After a minute or two, your shrimp should be a rosy pink underneath. They should also be opaque on that side. When you see that, flip ’em over.
Cook them on this side for another one or two minutes.
They should be slightly curled at this point—but not tightly curled.
When a shrimp is cooked, it’s opaque. (See on this one, the top half of the shrimp is opaque, but the bottom is still kind of translucent because it’s not done yet.)
When the shrimp are pink and opaque on the bottom, take the pan off the heat.
Let them sit in the pan, off the heat, for another minute to finish cooking through to the center.
Transfer them to a dish or plate and set them aside. Reserve the oil from the pan. That’s going into the pasta salad.
(Mmmmm, shrimp. Better give one a nibble, just to…you know…be totally sure they’re done.)
Assemble the pasta salad
Fluff up your pasta a little to be sure it’s not at all stuck together. (If it is, rinse it again in cold water, then drain it well.)
Pour the oil and juices from the pan into the bowl with the pasta.
Toss in the basil. Then add the goat feta.
Chop the shrimp up.
I like medium-sized pieces, like this:
Toss the chopped shrimp into the bowl.
Toss in the chives. Grind on some black pepper. Squeeze on the lemon (pick out any seeds).
Now, you can mix this up with tongs or a few wooden spoons. I tend to use my hands, especially with a long noodle like fettuccine. It’s gentler on the pasta.
You want the ingredients to be evenly distributed. Give it a taste, and toss in a little salt if you think it needs it (and depending on the type of cheese you used).
I don’t like to keep cooked seafood for more than one day, so I usually make this no earlier than the night before I want to serve it.
If it needs it when it comes out of the fridge, you can toss in a little extra olive oil to loosen it up.