Tonight, I was dying to relive my recent visit to New Orleans (also known as NOLA). It is the foodie capital of the United States. NOLA blends French finesse and Creole seasonings and spices like no other. Mmm.
And while that’s all fine and good, I needed to be realistic. I was mindful of the fact that I have been teaching all day, and tutoring for three hours past 3:00. It’s the typical plight of the working woman, except I cannot simply admit that I am too busy to cook even though I actually am (maybe children will change that!)
And so, I wanted to cook NOLA quickly…and it dawned on me.
Make Shrimp Ya-Ya. . I know it doesn’t even sound like a dish. But that’s because its deceptively simple title has a hidden complexity. The name is simply fooling the skeptics into thinking this is nothing short of extraordinary.
Now most readers have probably heard of “pesto” and of course “Alfredo,” but it’s highly unlikely you have heard of “Ya-Ya” unless you frequent the south. It doesn’t sound fancy or classy, but it tastes divine.
So here’s what Shrimp Ya-Ya is in this highly technical mathematical formula:
Pesto + Alfredo + Crushed Red Pepper Flakes = Shrimp “Ya-Ya.”
It’s a creamy pesto that is served with hot, steamy garlic French bread and a few Gulf shrimp. The shrimp are delicious–no doubt. But my favorite part of the meal is mopping the sauce with the garlic bread. I refuse to leave one bit of sauce, so I always ask for extra bread like a good Atkin’s dieter does. And if you are ever in New Orleans, please go to the restaurant in which this dinner was inspired by; it is Zach and I’s favorite low key bar, Le Bayou. They make delicious hurricanes to wash these down, too. Please order two or three for me, okay?
Now the only difference with my dinner tonight is that I added a starch: I wanted pasta. Grits would go well with this (but not if you’re in a hurry–grits are for when you’re watching grass grow) for a southern flair–any starch! If I had French bread available, that would be my go to–dip all that sauce until it is inevitably gone.
Now feel free to modify this recipe and break it down. Use the pesto and Alfredo exclusively when you’re feeling like making something simple. Pesto is great as a spread for sandwiches–so if you have extra, put it aside! Alfredo can’t be stored like pesto, but it comes together so quickly that you’ll be able to make it any time.
Shrimp Ya-Ya Pesto and Fettuccine (Serves Four*)
*-Could easily be modified for two or one!
Now let’s go solve the equation that I’ll likely be too selfish to divide…(insert cheesy puns from this point forward)
The Right Angle (Alfredo Sauce)
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
6 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 teaspoon minced garlic
1⁄2 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
1⁄8 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
The Hypotenuse (Pesto Sauce)
2 cups fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons pine nuts (pignoli)** (If you don’t have any in your area, you can substitute with another nut like walnuts, but I believe it’s best to leave it out if you have a nut that is not in the same family)
2-3 cloves of garlic (just don’t kiss anyone)
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, but honestly, probably more
The Legs (Shrimp)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 pound extra jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
Half Box of Fettuccine** (only if you want pasta–if you want traditional Shrimp Ya-Ya, just prepare sauce and shrimp.)
Make the sauces:
PESTO (make this first)
- Rinse basil leaves of any dirt (if freshly pulled from a garden.) In the a food processor or blender, add basil, pine nuts, and garlic, and pulse to combine.
- While the mixture is pulsating, add 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a steady stream, and process until a smooth paste forms.
- Add 2 tablespoons Parmesan and salt, and process 30 seconds more. Add cheese to taste.
- Use a spatula and put pesto on the side in a bowl.
- In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add cream, and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add Parmesan and garlic, stirring until cheese melts. Stir around and do not burn the garlic!
- Remove from heat, and let thicken. Add parsley and red pepper, if desired. The red pepper flake is spicy, but it’s necessary for the NOLA distinction. Also, if you’re afraid of spice–no worries; the cream will offset it.
Boil the water** (only if you’re making pasta): Salt the water generously. Throw in a half a box of fettuccine and stir to keep pasta from sticking.
Check Your Work (Final Steps):
- Get shrimp out–if frozen, thaw in cold running water, if fresh, leave them out.
- In a large nonstick skillet, heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat.
- Add shrimp and season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes lightly–cook until pink and firm.
- Remove the shrimp for a minute and place aside.
- Following, stir in red pepper flake, pesto mixture, and Alfredo. Cook until sauce is slightly thickened. Top with remaining 1/4 cup or more of Parmesan. Lower the heat if necessary to thicken.
***Drain pasta when al dente (about 12 minutes), and lightly toss strands of fettuccine in sauce with tongs. Plate and serve shrimp on top,and put more straight pesto in the center for color and flavor. Just remember, if you are making this with pasta, it will have a less creamy appearance, but will still be equally delicious. Eat immediately.
Enjoy your weekend, and stay tuned for Monday! 🙂