(Shrimp Fra Diavolo)
Being that I am both Italian and Catholic, I am a sucker for all these symbolic things and turn them into a huge festa! (any excuse for a party in the Longo household!) So on feast days such as this, we are celebrating the Saint whose name our children bear, or their "name day." In Italian, this is called the "onomastico" and is largely celebrated even today throughout Italy.
THE STORY OF ST. MARIA GORETTI
She was a poor farm girl, who, when her father passed away of illness, was left with her mother and four siblings to take care of a man's farm. This man's son, Alessandro, would constantly taunt Maria, and one day, when she would not cooperate with his evil ways, he tried to kill her. All the while, Saint Maria Goretti was warning him to stop for fear of the loss of his soul - not caring about her own life. She was terribly injured by his knife wounds, and taken to a nearby hospital where she died.
Maria publicly forgave Alessandro on her deathbed. Later, while in prison, Alessandro had a dream about Maria Goretti handing him some lilies (the symbol of purity) and saying she would pray for him. He began visiting with the local Bishop and eventually repented, spending the rest of his life after his release as a monk. The lessons of purity and forgiveness are ones the world could use a little more of these days! And that's why I chose to name my daughter after her.
We celebrated by reading a short story on the life of Saint Maria Goretti to the kids and having cake! Simple as that! It doesn't take much effort, and yet the children will remember the celebration (and hopefully the message of her story) for years to come.
My very sad baking skills were put to the test (again) for The cross cake with what are supposed to be lillies on top!
And whats an Italian Festa without a great Italian meal? We made Shrimp Fra Diavolo which is a spicy red sauce with shrimp and WOW is it spicy!! The trick is to use hot pepper to season not only the shrimp and the sauce, but most importantly - the oil! Hot oil is the BEST way to infuse the dish with the flavors of garlic and hot pepper. Here's my oh-so-simple version of the dish for a quick (and EASY) pasta dish that is sure to impress:
Shrimp Fra Diavolo
(measurements are approximate because I am Italian and therefore learned EVERYTHING I know from my parents or grandparents!)
4 TBSP Extra virgin olive oil
8 cloves minced garlic (adjust this to your liking)
1 TBSP crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 lb. Shrimp, peeled, de-veined, and sliced in half LENGTHWISE *
Already made marinara sauce or 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes**
Heat the e.v.o.o. in a large deep, skillet and saute the minced garlic until slightly golden. Add the crushed red pepper flakes directly into the oil. Toss in the shrimp (seasoned lightly with salt and black pepper) and cook for about a minute on each side (WATCH CLOSELY - this happens fast) until pink in color. DO NOT OVERCOOK!
**NOW: you have two options here. You can either toss this entire mixture (oil and shrimp) into the pre-made (that DOES NOT mean store bought) marinara sauce. I like to use one I made a few days before, and throw it on the stove while I'm cooking the shrimp.....then your sauce is done and ready to serve with your choice of spaghetti or cappellini (my choice).
OR - you can remove the shrimp from the pan, leave the oil on med-low heat and (provided its deep enough) add the can of crushed tomatoes, season with some black pepper and Italian seasoning (or whatever you like). Simmer for 20-30 min and then return the shrimp to the pan. Serve with your favorite spaghetti/angel hair/capellini/spaghettini/etc.
*Cutting the shrimp in half lengthwise ensures that the shrimp does not get too tough after cooking for too long. The smaller pieces of shrimp allow for the shrimp to cook thoroughly without being OVERcooked. And it makes everything bite size!
This is such an EASY way to make a quick shrimp pasta dish. Typically, Fra Diavolo is very spicy so adjust the hot pepper as you prefer. I am somewhat conservative with my seasoning because I am feeding four kids under the age of six. I want to break them in slowly (they are learning to LOVE spicy food) but I don't want to traumatize them either!
So give it a shot and give me your feedback. What adjustments would you make? What thickness of spaghetti is YOUR favorite? Buon Appetito!