This recipe for Bucatini with Shrimp and Pine Nuts in a light cream sauce is a great quick meal that the whole family will love. It has the perfect combination of complementary flavors and textures.
How to make Bucatini with Shrimp and Pine Nuts in a Light Cream Sauce
I love pasta. I love shrimp. I love an easy weekday dinner. Bucatini with Shrimp and Pine Nuts in a Light Cream Sauce is a dinner I love to serve. Easy, quick, light.
So let's talk about how to prepare this recipe along with your options...I love options. Don't you?
Pasta is Pasta is Pasta
Well, mostly right. Most commercially made pasta (or noodles as some call them) are made with the same ingredients, flour, water, and salt. (and I'm only going to talk about commercially produced pasta here, homemade pasta needs its own space entirely).
So what makes Bucatini different?
If pasta is all made the same, why does it make any difference what kind of pasta you use to make a dish? Some kinds of pasta are better in various preparations because of their shape.
I chose bucatini because it's a long pasta, and has a hole in the middle of it. This is great for twirling up the noodles and getting all that great sauce inside.
Bucatini also cooks a bit quicker, due to that hole, which is why it's one of the few kinds of pasta that can be cooked in that time limit set in many cooking competitions.
If you don't want to use bucatini, then use another long pasta, but a flatter wider one. Wider than spaghetti. Linguini, Fettuccini, or Tagliatelle are good substitutes.
First, let's talk about nutrition. Shrimp is a very low-calorie high-protein food source with only 84 calories per 3-ounce serving. As 90% of the calories come from protein, the fat level is extremely low.
Shrimp provides 20 different vitamins and minerals including 50% of your daily requirement of selenium, 21% of Vitamin B-12, along with a good dose of niacin, iron, and phosphorus. Shrimp is also one of the best food sources of iodine, an important mineral that many people are deficient in. Iodine is required for proper thyroid function and brain health
That's a lot of good stuff packed there into its 84 calories.
Shrimp does have a bad reputation for being high in cholesterol. And that is true.
Shrimp have about 166mg of cholesterol in that same 3-ounce serving which is 85% more than most seafood, like tuna. BUT, dietary cholesterol does not necessarily translate to high cholesterol in your body.
This is because most of the cholesterol in your blood is produced by your liver, and when you eat foods high in cholesterol, your liver produces less. Body regulated.
Wild Caught or Farmed
While farmed salmon has come a long way in their farming methods, shrimp has not and is still mostly farmed in foreign countries, such as Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia.
Being highly unregulated, these farms raise the shrimp in small areas, feed them chemically, use antibiotics to keep them "safe for consumption", and the shrimp swim and eat in their own filth.
Sounds tasty, doesn't it.
Wild-caught on the other hand is just as the name implies.
Caught while living in the wild, by fishermen. They are swimming in the ocean, which while many will say is not all that clean, it's cleaner than a farm!
Wild-caught shrimp are regulated and inspected prior to being packaged. At least here in the United States.
So know, there are wild-caught shrimp being harvested off the coast of those same countries that have shrimp farms, so when buying shrimp, my recommendation is to buy only wild-caught in the US and packed in the US. Anything else is suspect.
Shrimp come in different sizes and are sold by how many of them make a pound. Colossal shrimp are less than 16 shrimp per pound, Jumbo 21-25 per pound, Large 31-35 per, and Medium 41-50 per pound. For this recipe, I used Jumbo wild-caught shrimp from the Gulf coast.
How to cook Shrimp to perfection
Shrimp are very delicate and cook quickly.
They do not appreciate being over-cooked and show that lack of appreciation by being tough, rubbery, and chewy. This is not the shrimp you want. So, after patting them dry with paper towels, seasoning them with some salt and freshly ground pepper, cook them quickly in a hot pan with a bit of oil until they are just cooked, about 3 minutes tops. You can either stir them to cook them or sear each side. If the shrimp are large enough, then I sear, starting at 12:00 in my pan, adding shrimp in a clockwise manner, then when they are all in the pan, go back to 12:00 and turn them all. Once all have been turned, remove them, starting at...12:00. If they are small, I toss them and stir them until they are opaque. Set them aside once they are cooked, you can reheat them in your sauce along with your pasta.
A Light Cream Sauce - Since the shrimp is so low-calorie, and pasta will always be 200 calories per 2 ounces (dry) weight, I wanted to keep my creamy sauce low-fat, and low-calorie as well. This is easily done by using 2% low-fat milk mixed with 1 tablespoon of cornstarch. The cornstarch acts as a thickener and turns that low-fat milk into a cream-style sauce.
Now if you don't care about the calories, you could certainly make a roux of butter and flour and then add the milk, or use real cream, but for me, that kind of defeats the purpose and I don't really think you are going to miss the butter and cream all that much.
So I'm sticking with my 2% milk, cornstarch slurry.
Adding the lemon zest early into the milk mixture allows the flavors to blend. So I usually make this first while I prepare my other ingredients.
Remember, organic or not, always wash the outside of your lemon prior to using the zest.
Corn and Zucchini - The corn can be fresh cut from the cob, or frozen. If frozen allow it to thaw. I only use the outside of the zucchini, not the seedy middle.
Dice the zucchini into a size similar to the corn kernels.
Bucatini with Shrimp and Pine Nuts is best with both zucchini and corn but could be made with only one of them if that's all you have.
Pine Nuts - Toasted.
Always toast your nuts.
Pine nuts burn quickly so be very mindful when you toast them. Toast by putting into a small skillet set on medium heat, shake until they start to show color, but not black. Black is not the color you want. Light brown, tan. A kiss of the summer sun.
Or, if you are like me, buy them already toasted. They have them at many stores, I get mine at Trader Joe's. Keep your unused pine nuts in the refrigerator or freezer, their high-fat content makes them go rancid quickly.
Basil - Fresh basil or don't use it at all. Dried basil has no flavor. Because basil has a certain sweetness to it, I don't think there is a proper substitute. And it's super easy to find, or for most, not me, but most, it's easy to grow.
So that's it. Bucatini with Shrimp and Pine Nuts in a Light Cream sauce is an easy, low-fat, low-calorie, tasty meal that can be on the table in less than 30 minutes, and that's with cooking the pasta. If you do all the saucy parts while the pasta cooks, it's really only about 15 minutes total.
Now that's fast food!
Perfect with a glass of lightly oaked chardonnay.
Hungry for more low-fat low-cal SHRIMP dishes? Try these...
Want to use up the rest of that basil and pine nuts? Try this Lighter Basil Pesto.
Bucatini with Shrimp and Pine Nuts in a Light Cream Sauce
- 8 ounces bucatini linguini, or spaghetti, cooked to package directions, drained, with ½ cup cooking liquid reserved
- 1 cup 2% milk
- 1 tablespoon corn starch
- Zest of one large lemon wash well before zesting
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin oil oil
- 1 pound medium shrimp peeled and deveined (thawed if frozen)
- 1 medium zucchini cut to be about the same size as the pine nuts (use only the outside of the zucchini, not the seedy middle)
- 1 cup corn kernels fresh or frozen, thawed if frozen
- ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
- ½ cup shredded fresh basil
- Fresh grated Parmesan cheese if desired
- In a measuring cup combine the milk, corn starch, lemon zest, and some salt and pepper. Mix well and set aside.
- In a skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and sear on each in the oil until just cooked through, do not overcook. Remove the shrimp and set aside.
- Turn heat to medium; add the zucchini, saute until crisp-tender, about 1 - 2 minutes. Add the corn, saute for 2 minutes more.
- Give the milk mixture a good stir and pour it into the skillet. Stir until it has thickened then add the pasta, toss to combine. Add the shrimp back to the pan and cook until all is heated through. Add the pine nuts and basil. Toss well to combine; adding some reserved pasta water if it seems too dry. Serve in wide warmed bowls. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, if desired.