Let’s hear it for the ear shaped orecchiette, Apulia’s contribution to the universe of pasta and the star of Orecchiette with Tomato Shrimp Sauce. Unlike most of the recipes on this website this is not something I grew up eating and it features only intermittently on local menus. I’m not sure why that is since the little ear shape hangs on to sauce like nobody’s business and is satisfyingly chewy. And unlike spaghetti it will not splatter your cheeks or neck with sauce as you eat it. Something to consider when you’re having a business lunch or date.
This recipe is my approximation of a dish I had many times at a trattoria on the ground floor of the place where I stayed in Rome. The cooks would start the tomato sauce early so each morning we’d wake up to the mellow aroma of bubbling tomato and onions. I must be in God’s good graces because I got the taste right the first time (either that or my memory is better than I remembered). The shrimp, bacon and tomato sauce’s best quality is its ability to deliver complex flavor in a quick prep time.
You start by adding a little olive oil (in the shot below I used butter since I was out of o.o. ) in a pan then toss in the diced bacon or pancetta. Fry until fairly brown then add the onion and garlic, cooking for a few minutes till clear.
Then add the rest of the ingredients and let simmer over low heat for about 15 minutes. When the sauce is cooked to your liking, cut the heat and add the shrimp. The residual heat will cook them in just a few minutes. The amount of orecchiette you add depends on how far you want to stretch the recipe so be creative. Actually, with the exception of the bacon and tomatoes the amounts of all the other ingredients are fungible. More or less garlic or onions as you please, just make sure you get good smoked bacon or pancetta, and if you can find them the fire roasted chopped tomatoes are excellent. Your favorite herb goes on top and can be parsley, oregano or basil.
This is what’s called a rustic sauce so the finished version will be very chunky. See below:
- 4 rashers of bacon, diced (or equivalent amount of pancetta, about 4 oz.)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
- ½ cup chopped onion
- 1 28 oz can of chopped tomatoes
- 1 tsp of sugar
- ½ tsp. red pepper flakes, or to taste
- 1 lb. shrimp, shelled & cut up
- Parmesan & parsley for garnish
- salt to taste.
- Put olive oil and bacon into a pan & fry until done. Keep the oil & fat from the bacon.
- Add garlic & onion and cook for several minutes until clear.
- Add tomatoes, pepper flakes & sugar. Cover and let simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes over low heat.
- Add the shrimp after you take the sauce off the burner. The residual heat will fully cook it in about 3 minutes.
- Boil orecchiette according to package directions. The amount you use will depend on your preferred ratio of sauce to pasta.
- Check the sauce & add a little of the pasta water to it if you want to thin it.
- Drain pasta and add to sauce. Garnish with parmesan, parsley, basil, or oregano.