I love going to the supermarket. I go for one thing, say grainy mustard, and before you know it I’ve left with five more things I didn’t know I needed. What more when I’m hungry! Then I end up coming home with some new frozen chicken pot pie, an assortment of dumplings and my favourite, Hagen Daaz strawberry ice cream, plus five more things I didn’t know I needed.
Imagine my joy when I was living in Florence. Going to the supermarket was always a treat for me and I would go to buy fresh ingredients to make myself a new pasta every night. I love eating and making pasta and with access to such an array of local products and produce, I enjoyed lovely pasta meals at home every night.
And then I discovered the Mercato Centrale and my relationship with my local grocery ended immediately. I realised that all the people shopping at the Conad or Vivi supermarkets were either tourists or foreigners! All the locals shopped at Mercato Centrale, a 2-storey food market filled with food artisans, fishmongers, and farmers humbly selling their specialties with pride. Suddenly, I realized that the produce quality and food selection at the supermarkets were actually quite abysmal.
Here there were stands that had eggs stacked high like pyramids, soft billowy clouds of mozzarella di bufala, hanging sausages and cured meats galore, and cheeses, wine, fresh fish, fresh produce, and my absolute favourite, fresh pasta. There was no reason to go back to the supermarket again unless I just needed laundry detergent. And guess what, when I went in for laundry detergent from thereon, I only left with that. They’ve recently renovated the ground floor of Mercato Centrale and I can’t wait to go back the next time I’m in Florence.
I was so happy to discover that Urban Fare down the street from me has a fresh pasta counter. Although the selection is incredibly limited, they have pappardelle and fettucini which are two of my favourite pasta types. I made a shrimp scampi pasta with fettucini earlier this week because ever since I made that Flour Bakery’s Luscious Cheesecake for Paul’s birthday, I’ve been daydreaming about my favourite eating haunts in Boston. One of them was Daily Catch where I would go just to eat their shrimp scampi linguini! Such a simple dish but absolutely delicious if done properly. Here’s how I do mine.
Shrimp Scampi Pasta
What you need:
- 5 cloves of garlic (or more, you can never have too much, in my opinion), minced
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ cup dry white wine
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 pounds large or extra-large shrimp, shelled and deveined
- ½ cup chopped parsley
- Freshly squeezed juice of half a lemon
- Cooked pasta (linguine, spaghetti or fettuccine are my personal preferences)
What to do:
1. Cook pasta al dente in a large pot of boiling water, generously salted and with a little bit of olive oil (to prevent pasta from sticking).
2. In a large skillet, melt butter with olive oil at medium low heat. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Be careful not to let the garlic brown.
3. Add wine or broth, salt, red pepper flakes and plenty of black pepper and bring to a simmer. Let wine reduce by half, about 2 minutes.
4. Add shrimp and sauté until they just turn pink, 2 to 4 minutes depending upon their size. Stir in the parsley and lemon juice and toss in the cooked pasta. Mix well then serve.