“Since hunger is the most primitive and permanent of human wants, men always want to eat, but since their wish not to be a mere animal is also profound, they have always attended with special care to the manners which conceal the fact that at the table we are animals feeding.” - John Erskine

11 November 2011

Olive Garden shrimp caprese

Yes, we do eat vegetables with our meals (usually) but I was in a hurry to get the picture taken.  No, really.  Would I lie?  Ok, ok.  Do the tomatoes and basil count?
I was cooking dinner when my husband walked in and asked, “What’s for dinner?”  You may or may not be aware that this question inevitably sends me into an irrational rage, so I held my tongue.  He then said, “Is it really that hard?”  So I said, “Shrimp caprese.  Does that tell you anything?”  Nope.  He had no idea what shrimp caprese was, and probably still doesn’t, even though he liked it a lot.  (Meaning, if I ask him now if he’d like some shrimp caprese he would probably ask me what the heck is that.)  I managed to diffuse my frustration with a distracted snort of humor and got back to cooking.

Why shrimp caprese?  One, we love pasta at our house.  (Have you figured that out yet?)  Two, I was craving Red Lobster’s salmon New Orleans ~ which I discovered when we went there for my celebratory birthday meal, that they don’t make any more (yeah, happy birthday to me) ~ and while searching to see if there was a recipe for it online I stumbled upon found this awesome blog, CopyKat Recipes.  Needless to say I wasted spent a lot of time checking out all the awesome recipes there and decided that I would give this one a try.

Olive Garden Shrimp Caprese
serves 8
source: copykat.com
3 pounds roma tomatoes, cored and cut into 1” pieces
30 medium fresh basil leaves, stems removed, and cut into 1” pieces
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
salt to taste
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup white wine
3 cups heavy cream
2 cups Parmesan cheese, grated
2 pounds capellini (angel-hair) pasta, cooked according to package directions
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
3 pounds (25-30) shrimp, peeled and de-veined

Preheat broiler.  (I would recommend waiting to preheat the broiler until you start cooking the shrimp.  You're supposed to let the bruschetta marinate for an hour!)  Combine tomatoes, basil, olive oil, garlic, Italian seasoning and salt in a large bowl and blend thoroughly.  Cover, set aside and marinate for at least 1 hour.

Heat a large, nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add butter and let melt.  Stir in white wine and bring to a boil.  Add heavy cream and Parmesan cheese and bring to a simmer.  Let sauce reduce to desired consistency.

Add cooked, drained pasta and marinated tomatoes to skillet.  Stir to thoroughly coat pasta with sauce.  Transfer pasta and sauce to serving platter and top with mozzarella cheese.

Grill or sauté shrimp until internal temperature reaches 150° and set aside.  Place a serving platter in the broiler for 2-3 minutes, or until cheese has melted. 

Top pasta with cooked shrimp and serve.

I tried, I really did, to stick to the recipe, and I think I managed brilliantly.  Especially for me.  I even chopped AND cored the tomatoes to make the bruschetta instead of dumping it all in my food processor as I am wont to do.  Aren’t you impressed?  You really should be.  And I used leaves from my sweet little basil plant. 
Here it is looking a little sparse after I picked all of the large leaves to make this recipe.  (The red plant behind it is my shamrock.  The yellow cap behind it is the lotion I use after washing dishes.)
(A great investment ~ I found it during a random visit to Macey’s grocery store for a little less than $5.  I actually bought two and transplanted them into a long planter.  Water every day or so from the bottom.  My husband was certain I was going to kill it within a week ~ oh he of little faith ~ but I have found that basil plants are a lot like philodendrons ~ they’re very difficult to kill.  You can even pull off a stalk and stick it in the dirt, and while it will wither and look very unhappy for about a week, after that it will straiten up and begin to grow leaves.  If you use basil much, I highly recommend getting one of these little sweeties!)

Anyway.  I made the bruschetta (if you dont know what bruschetta is and are confused, its what the first 6 ingredients make ~ the “marinade”) and let it sit.  I even used real white wine that I bought from the liquor store for the cream sauce.  (Man that liquor store employee was grumpy and rude.  Didn’t lessen my discomfort at being in an unfamiliar environment a bit.  In fact, made me very nervous about going back.)  Real butter, heavy cream, only I used this instead of the parm.  (Hey, there’s parm in there!)  And I used pre-cooked shrimp, since it was quite a bit less expensive than raw and I didn't have to peel or devein.  (Kind of counter-intuitive, isn’t it?)

I have to say that it made A LOT.  And I do mean A LOT!!!  I didn’t even double the recipe, and I’m very glad for that.  In fact, I highly recommend halving the recipe, and that would probably feed 5 of you, even if you have voracious animals like mine, so you may want to halve it again.  And when they say to put it all in a large skillet ~ yeah, good luck with that.  I put it all in the largest pot I have (my spaghetti-cooking pot) and it still wasn’t big enough.  I ended up pulling out several handfulls of hot noodles (ouch!) and there was still too much food to fit in my pot.  I finally dumped it all in a huge bowl and mixed it together there.  Just sprinkled the mozzarella on top and let it melt from the heat of the rest of the food.

My husband went crazy for this meal.  In fact, I think he was the only one that really liked it.  He was starving, so I didn’t take much time to “reduce” the cream sauce.  In fact, it didn’t really reduce much at all.  I wonder if that would have made any difference.  In my opinion the wine taste was very strong, so maybe I needed to cook more of the alcohol out of it.  I suppose it’s possible I didn’t choose the best wine for this recipe; I don’t have a lot of wine experience and the lady at the liquor store ~ as I may have mentioned ~ was less than helpful...

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