Lynda Balslev: Honest cooking |

Lynda Balslev: Honest cooking

Lynda Balslev

This dish is no-drama with honest ingredients. During a busy week, its simplicity and flavor are a welcome and uncomplicated interlude. Crisp-tender broccolini spears and plump, briny shrimp mingle in a quick-cooked, three-ingredient tomato sauce infused with garlic. It’s fresh and bright, and can be whipped up in 30 minutes for a healthy weeknight dinner that’s low-maintenance and utterly delicious.

A series of quick steps ensures that each ingredient is perfectly cooked before tossing the whole lot together. The broccolini and shrimp are sauteed with crushed red pepper flakes and olive oil long enough to brighten in color and amplify their flavor, without overcooking and rendering them dull and limp. A simple Italian plum tomato sauce simmers with garlic to blend and thicken before binding the dish. A final flourish of fresh basil is added to the mix, letting the heat of the pasta wilt the leaves and release their perfume.

This short list of ingredients is accessible, straightforward and, well, honest. In return, it demands the best ingredients you can find for optimum flavor and freshness.

Spaghetti With Shrimp, Broccolini and Basil

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Active Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: Serves 4

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

12 ounces broccolini, ends trimmed, cut into bite-size pieces

Crushed red pepper flakes


1 pound large (20/24) shrimp, peeled and deveined, with tails intact

1 large garlic clove, minced

1 (28-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes with juice

Pinch of sugar, optional

Freshly ground black pepper

1 pound spaghetti or linguine

1/2 cup whole basil leaves, torn if large, plus extra for garnish

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the broccolini, a pinch of red pepper flakes, and lightly season with salt. Saute the broccolini until bright in color and crisp-tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

Add 1 tablespoon oil to the same skillet. Add the shrimp in one layer with a pinch of red pepper flakes and season with salt. Cook over medium heat until pink on both sides and just cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes, turning as needed. Transfer the shrimp to the bowl with the broccolini.

Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the same skillet. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Simmer over medium-low heat until slightly thickened, 8 to 10 minutes, breaking the tomatoes apart with a spoon. Taste for seasoning and add additional salt and/or a pinch of sugar if desired.

While the sauce is simmering, bring a large pot of generously salted water to a rolling boil. Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente. Drain the spaghetti and transfer to the skillet with the sauce. Add the shrimp, broccolini and basil, and stir to combine.

Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with freshly ground black pepper and additional basil leaves.

Lynda Balslev is a cookbook author, food and travel writer, and recipe developer based in the San Francisco Bay area.

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