Sunday, April 24, 2016

Shrimp Carbonara, Venice Style

Shrimp Carbonara the very words are enough to make you swoon. Rich bacon laden sauce covering cream and egg slicked noodles and mixed with softly sauteed shrimp. It's an Italian seafood lovers fantasy.

Sadly all too often this dish is badly represented in the US. as it is a favorite at many Italian chain restaurants. which overcook everything in this dish and smother it in a poorly done Alfredo-like sauce with bits of bacon and rubbery shrimp. Home cooked recipes as well can make the mistake of making this dish into a version of shrimp scampi with cream and bacon. I saw another version. Composed and flavor ridden unlike any I had seen before.

This version comes from my trip to Europe to do recipe and food research and is from our stop in Venice.

First off Venice is an incredible feast for the eyes let alone the stomach. It's dizzying beauty is theatrical and fanciful. It's watery by ways and canals make for a romantic and sumptuous ever changing color palette for the winding streets and slowly fading piazzas with towering roofs and drooping balconies. Casting watery moving shadows and reflected sunlight on the walls and ceilings of buildings and rooms at different times of the day. It is as charming a place as one hoped for and more inviting a place than one could dream.

It is said that you can't get a bad meal in Italy except in Venice. Well, thanks to having great guides that was not the case for me and my fellow travelers. We enjoyed many a good meal. Mostly seafood centric and found the flavors of the cuisine in Venice different for the rest of Italy. The reason for this is historical. Many many different cultures found their way to the kitchens of Venice. And being the first city on the spice route from the east also gave it a slight oriental undertone. Italian but not afraid of mixing new flavors together.

One dish that demonstrated this was the Shrimp Carbonara that I had on the second evening of our time there. My friend Ken found the most charming old school Venetian restaurant. Laid out along a canal it's windows opened on one side to the water and the rooms were furnished with dark wood and gold, marble busts and old paintings of Venice, her history and seacoast. It had a giant fireplace and a huge table in the middle with platters of antipasti draped over them, cascading down in piles of sliced and marinated vegetables and meats cheeses and smoked and brined fish. It was spectacular. Our waiters were senior and very well versed in serving up Americans a true Venetian experience. And when they offered the menu to us we all took advantage of the tasting menu. It was multiple courses of all old Venetian dishes. This version of Shrimp Carbonara on the menu was very unexpected. Unlike most versions of this this dish it was a carefully composed dish comprised of three parts. Each part was a separate flavor profile but played wonderfully off each other. No sloppy mixture of pasta, cream sauce and shrimp. No it was composed and when eaten together made so much sense. It was amazing. So here's my version of this dish. It's not hard to make but is time consuming and yo have to plan out your timing so that each part comes together at the about the same time.


2 pounds large shrimp butterflied
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup vermouth
1/4 cup bread crumbs
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon lemon zest
3 tablespoons lemon juice
salt and pepper
1/4 cup melted butter
Olive oil
chopped parsley

1 pound Spaghetti
2 cups cubed or chopped bacon
1/4 teaspoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic minced
1/4 cup vermouth
4 large eggs
1/2 cup parmesan cheese grated (plus more for serving)
black pepper (lots)
1/4 cup heavy cream
chopped parsley
grated nutmeg

1 cup tomato sauce
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
salt and pepper to taste


For the Tomato Sauce

For the tomato sauce add all the ingredients to a pot and slowly bring to a boil
Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 mins to an hour. Hold warm.

For the Shrimp: (place in the oven when you start cooking your pasta)

Place the shrimp in a bowl and mix in the oil, vermouth and salt and pepper and let sit in fridge for 30 minutes.
Mix the breadcrumbs, seasoning, lemon zest, lemon juice and salt and pepper and then mix with the melted butter.
Place the shrimp on oiled baking dish place shrimp cut side up and flat
Divide the bread mixture and spoon over the shrimp then pour remaining marinade over them.
Sprinkle with the parsley
Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 10 to 12 mins or until golden and the shrimp are pink
Hold warm

For the Pasta:

Boil large pot of salted water for the pasta.
In a large pan that will fit the cooked pasta later heat oil.
Cook garlic till it blooms then add the bacon anc cook till crisp but not overdone.
Add the vermouth and deglaze the pan reducing till you have a syrup of bacon fat and wine left.
Take the pan off the heat.
In a bowl beat the eggs, cream , cheese and some pepper together
Now at this point cook the pasta till just al dente about 2 mins before the package timing skim off 1/2 of pasta water
Place the bacon pan on heat again
Drain the pasta and add immediately to the bacon mixture add 1/2 the water
Add the egg mixture and the fresh parsely to the pasta quickly tossing everything to coat.

To serve twist the pasta with tongs and pile in the center of a large pasta bowl trying to keep a space at the edge of the bowl.
When all four plates are done top with the shrimp and divide the tomato sauce between the bowl pouring it around the base of the pasta like a ring but not over it.

Enjoy the flavor combinations mix and mingle in the most unexpected ways!!

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