A Pasta Made Together

05/23/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

My boyfriend and I don't eat dinner together that much because of busy schedules and whatnot, but we have gotten into a nice rhythm when we do. Though I most often do the cooking, he takes part in the meal planning and ingredient acquisition. When Alex comes over for dinner, he'll occasionally give me a food-related gift: a new set of spices, in that case, or some good quality olive oil, in others, but in the end he's not a guest, obligated to bring a bottle of wine. Our dinners are shared events. He does actually cook, for himself many nights--or for me, most recently, a wonderful Greek roast chicken with potatoes. In the end, cooking together is prevented by the fact that that my kitchen is literally big enough only for one.

Sometimes, when we'll be eating together and I'm unsure of what I'm craving, I look to him for the inspiration that my fridge and pantry doesn't seem to be giving me. I'll give him a rundown of ingredients on Gchat, and then he'll offer up a suggestion. Fortunately, what he wants often satisfies me too; that he likes potatoes, beans, quinoa, and other simple preparations makes it easy to cook for him without going out to shop. Though he's perhaps less meat-centric than many men, he can be just as veggie averse.

But we find ways to make the meals joint efforts. Like once, when I'd made an enormous pot of borrachos from Last Night's Dinner's recipe on Food52, I carried two servings of it over to his apartment in tupperware. Then we made the accompanying cornbread out of his pantry's ingredients--only I brought the egg, as he had run out. We had warm cornbread and warmed borrachos, and it was delicious. What's more, two people can fit in his kitchen, so while I measured and mixed, he poured the beans into a pot with some extra water and heated them through.

One Friday night, Alex had a long day of work. I'd had a long afternoon of writing at a cafe--which ended in mozzeralla sandwich eating. I had no clue what I wanted to eat, nor, due to the sandwich, was I all that hungry. He called from Grand Central before he got on the train to give me the items in his fridge: spinach, about to go bad, he reported, and frozen shrimp. Excellent.

I took stock of my own kitchen. I had 5 egg yolks sitting in the fridge from making several batches of brutti ma buoni earlier in the week, and so while he was on the subway, I made fresh pasta, figuring shrimp and spinach couldn't not go with it. When he arrived, I noticed immediately that the frozen shrimp he had brought, while of an excellent size, were neither cleaned nor deveined. We stood side by side in my kitchen--the only way you can stand in it--and peeled and cleaned them. In fact, the shells wound up enhancing the dish, since they became part of a saffron-enriched stock that flavored it. The result was a great meal, not quite as purposefully created as for a "date night," but a resourceful everyday pasta, its ingredients sourced from two fridges not one.

-Cara Eisenpress of Big Girls, Small Kitchen


Egg Pasta with Saffron, Shrimp, and Peas
Serves 2

You can use pre-shelled, pre-cleaned shrimp. Then, substitute pasta water for the quick shrimp broth (you'll have to make the pasta slightly earlier than otherwise, but it's no big deal, since it reheats in the sauce anyway).

1 pound medium shrimp, shell on
¼ teaspoon crumbled saffron threads
1 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
pinch red pepper flakes
¼ cup white wine
¼ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup frozen peas
1 bag fresh baby spinach
juice from 1 lemon
2 teaspoons butter (optional)

1 batch fresh fettucine

Peel the shrimp. Combine the shrimp shells and 1 cup of water in a small stockpot. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to low and simmer, partially covered, for about 10-15 minutes, while you do the other prep work. Strain, discarding the shells, and stir in the saffron until it dissolves. Set aside.

Bring a pot of very salted water to the boil for the pasta.

In a large pan, saute the garlic and shallots over low heat until just golden. Add the red pepper flakes a minute or two in. Add the wine and salt, turning the heat up slightly. Let the wine cook nearly off, then add the shrimp-saffron stock you've just made. Bring to a boil, then throw in the peas and the shrimp. Stir to mix everything together, then cook for about 30 seconds. Finally, add the spinach (this will fill up the pot), and toss everything together. Lower the heat and cover the pot for 1-2 minutes until the spinach is wilted and the shrimp is cooked through. Taste for salt and add any more as needed

Make the pasta about when you add the shrimp and peas--fresh pasta only needs a minute or two to cook. Drain, reserving a little bit of water in case the sauce seems dry.

Stir the pasta into the pot of shrimp and vegetables, and toss to distribute all the ingredients. Stir in the butter, if using, then serve immediately in big bowls sprinkled with a few extra red pepper flakes.