capellini pasta with spinach basil pesto, sautéed bell peppers and garlic lemon prawns
Last night I wanted something light and packed with veggies for dinner. The boys, as usual, wanted pasta. I decided we could have both.
About the pasta…
I love capellini pasta (also known as angel-hair pasta). It’s similar to spaghetti but much thinner, hence the name angel hair. There’s something about the way it twirls on my fork. It makes me happy eating it! (: Capellini is such a delicate pasta that, in my opinion, it requires light ingredients. I never serve it with meat or a heavy sauce. My absolute favourite way to eat it is with a delicious, light pesto and some type of seafood.
About the prawns…
In the recipe below, I removed the tail and halved the prawns down the middle. I’ve never understood why restaurants keep the tail on the prawns (other than the obvious reason of making it look like you’re getting more than you are. Maybe that’s the only reason…). There’s nothing I find more annoying (okay, there are lots of things, but this is up there) than having to dig through a hot pasta dish with my fingers to try and get the tail off the prawns. It drives me nuts.
I love the idea of halving the prawns because then you don’t have to either shove a whole prawn in your mouth at once or use a knife to cut it. When you cut it in half BEFORE cooking, it really does feel and look like you’re getting twice as much and it’s the perfect amount for one bite. NOTE: It’s easiest to slice them lengthwise in half when they’re still a bit frozen (see picture below).
About the peppers…
I added bell peppers to this dish because I had them and I wanted a bit of sweetness and bite to the dish. Also, I just like adding extra vegetables to EVERYTHING, as long as it ‘makes sense’ in the dish. In this case, the bell peppers compliment the prawns and pesto beautifully. I was going to add diced tomato as well, but decided against it – this time. Perhaps next time…
About the cheese…
I recommend garnishing this dish with good quality parmesan. If you only have the pre-grated stuff, use that. No big deal. But the ‘good stuff’ is a nice treat. I buy Grana Padano at Costco and it lasts me a month or more. I shave it onto EVERYTHING.
grana padano cheese
About the pesto…
Lastly, you can certainly just use a store-bought pesto for this dish but it will have a LOT more fat and calories (from much more oil, cheese and pine nuts) and much less nutrition (without all the spinach). Pesto literally takes 5 minutes to make and will last up to a week in the fridge! It also freezes well. I make it all summer while I have basil in the garden. (I add it to sandwiches, wraps, soups, salads, rice dishes, fish dishes, vinaigrettes and dips, to name a few). Yeah, I like pesto. Click on the link for the recipe: spinach basil pesto.
INGREDIENTS (serves 4)
- 300 – 375g capellini pasta (or vermicelli)
- 3/4 cup pesto (store bought or homemade)
- 12 – 16 prawns – peeled, deveined, tail off, and cut in half LENGTHWISE (see picture below)
- 2 Tbsp shallot – diced
- 1 tsp garlic – minced
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 1 cup yellow and/or orange bell pepper – large dice (red pepper would work as well)
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup chicken broth/stock OPTION: 1/4 cup white wine and 1/4 cup chicken broth to deglaze with for a ‘grown-up’ version. Deglaze with wine FIRST. Reduce by half, then add the chicken broth.
- 1 tsp olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- OPTION: 1 Tbsp butter – to finish pasta
- Bring pot of salted water to a boil.
- Mis en place everything (get all your ingredients ready to use). NOTE: This is important because the prawns cook so quickly. Have everything ready so you don’t have to stop to grate cheese or squeeze lemon juice or anything. This will ensure nothing gets overcooked or goes cold.
mis en place prawns, veggies, cheese and pesto
- Add oil into pan and get hot on medium high heat. Meanwhile, season prawns generously with salt and pepper.
- Drop pasta into boiling water and set timer. Cook for 4 minutes and drain immediately.
- While pasta is cooking and when the pan is hot, add prawns, peppers, shallot and garlic and cook for about ONE minute, stirring occasionally to ensure garlic isn’t burning.
- Deglaze with lemon juice (and wine, if using).
- Add chicken broth and cook for 30 seconds more until broth is slightly reduced. Don’t cook for too long or prawns will over cook and become rubbery.
adding chicken broth and lemon juice to pan
- Turn off heat and add the pesto.
adding pesto to pan
- The pasta should be cooked by now. Add pasta to the pan (and butter, if using) and toss to mix all the ingredients together. Top the pasta with parmesan cheese and serve immediately.
Suggestion: I always serve this dish with wine and a nice crusty warmed baguette. (Because EVERYTHING is better with wine and bread!)
my 4 year old son enjoying dinner!