April 13, 2011

Spinach and Shrimp Alfredo with Penne

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Bryan and his brother Andrew consider the tomato sauce they make together one of the most delicious possible. It has more depth, complexity, and flavor than most other sauces they've had. They also make a pretty mean tomato cream sauce. But, when talking about sauce, they eventually get to the topic of alfredo sauce, and usually determine that there's not much that can be done with it.

The alfredo sauce we made the other night might be proof to the contrary.

That sounds like a challenge. I'm up for a challenge. 
Alfredo sauce is a really simple concoction really - cream, butter, parmigiano cheese, and that's about it. We kept it pretty close to that with a few important additions: a tablespoon of creamy cheese, and the addition of an egg yolk. Mixing in to that some spinach and shrimp, and we had created for ourselves a delicious, gourmet, quick and easy penne alfredo dinner.

Making the Dish
What You'll Need

1/2 lb penne
1 tablespoon butter
2 cloves garlic
1 cup light cream
1/4 cup pecorino romano
1 tablespoon bianca cheese
egg yolk
12 shrimp
1 bag fresh baby spinach
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Start off by bringing a pot of salted water to boil. The sauce doesn't take too long to pull together, so it should be ready by the time the water has boiled and the pasta has cooked.

Mmmmm.... butter. 

While the water is boiling, start up your sauce by melting a tablespoon of butter in a non-stick pan. Once the butter has melted, add some garlic and simmer gently until the garlic has just started to turn pale golden brown, and then add a cup of light cream, mix together, and simmer for a few minutes.

Mixing in the cream to the butter and garlic.

While the cream is simmering, prepare your shrimp and spinach. For the sake of simplicity, we bought pre-cooked shrimp, but if you have more time and want to cook the shrimp yourself, feel free. Steam the spinach until it is just wilted, and then take it out of the steamer and press all the water out.

Pressing the water out of the spinach. 

Gourmet tip: pressing the water out of the spinach is really important for the final product. If there's excess water in the spinach when you add it to your alfredo sauce, it will make it soupy and green. So press that water out as much as possible.
Into a separate pan, throw in some garlic, crushed red pepper, and olive oil, and simmer until the garlic starts to cook, then throw in the shrimp and spinach and toss around until it is nicely coated with the garlic and pepper infused oil. Sprinkle a touch of salt and pepper over everything and toss some more, and then remove from the heat.

Mixing together the garlic, shrimp, spinach, and crushed red pepper. 
Your cream sauce has been simmering for a while so it should be somewhat thickened at this point. You can also add your pasta to the water and let it cook, until 1 minute shy of the package directions so that it is nice and al dente when you eat it.

Add about a tablespoon of the creamy cheese to the cream sauce mixture. 

Into the cream, add one tablespoon of a creamy cheese. We used bianca cheese, but you could probably use goat cheese or mascarpone to get a similar result. Whisk in the cheese until it is melted and thoroughly incorporated.

The flavored garlic and shrimp is added to the creamy sauce. 

Finally, take the spinach and shrimp and throw it into the cream sauce, and toss together until everything is incorporated. At this point, your penne should be about done cooking, so you can add that to the cream sauce and toss it together over the heat.

Tossing the pasta together with the shrimp and spinach alfredo sauce. 

For the final step, take one egg and separate the yolk from the egg whites. Drop the yolk into a mixing bowl.
Separating the yolk from the white using the shell. 
Then, take all your pasta and sauce and pour it over. Add a quarter cup of grated pecorino romano cheese, and toss everything together. The pasta and alfredo sauce will cook the yolk and the yolk will provide an added creaminess and flavor to the whole dish. Toss it vigorously so that it is incorporated throughout.

Tossing everything together to incorporate the yolk and the cheese throughout the alfredo sauce.

The Result
Serve the pasta in a warm bowl and top with a bit of fresh parsley and grated pecorino if desired. The shrimp and spinach should be flavorful with a subtle spicy kick, contrasting nicely the cool, creamy flavor of the sauce.

Nom, that looks good. Can I have some please??
It's a pretty enjoyable combination, and much better than the average alfredo sauce or the kind you'd get from a jar! And all together it only takes about 20 minutes.

Give this a try and let us know if it works out for you. And we're always looking for new things to try, so let us know what your favorite pasta sauce is in the comments!


  1. Just voted! Good luck to you!

    And I must say, that Alfredo sauce sounds delicious!! I'll definately be giving that a try soon, although with chicken since I don't eat seafood.

    My cats could only dream of being treated as well as you treat Herbie :)

  2. Thanks Karen! We appreciate your help!

    Yes, this would work great with chicken too. If you do it with chicken, I'd recommend grilling the breast whole and then slicing to incorporate (rather than slicing it up and then cooking it). That will give it nice grill marks and make it delicious :) Let us know how it goes!


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