I’m not sure if I ever mentioned this on the blog before, but my favorite chef is Lidia Bastianich. I’ve been watching her for years and adore her – I love her cooking-style, her stories, her food. I spent many Sunday afternoons with my beloved grandfather before he passed away last year sitting in his room at the nursing home watching Lidia’s show. We’d discuss what she was making, how he’d make the same recipe his way, and often he’d tell me to make something for him that she was making. It appeared that my love of Italian culture and food that I shared with my grandfather was also shared with Lidia.
My current favorite cookbook at home is Lidia’s Italy. This cookbook is categorized not by course but by regions of Italy. Each region has a foreword about the city and the food and a closing synopsis by Lidia’s daughter about the culture and landmarks. While a few of the recipes, like her Sacher Torte, are long and complicated, most of the recipes are very pure and simple and bursting with flavor.
Perhaps what has become my favorite recipe from the cookbook is Jumbo Shrimp Buzara Style. It’s a scampi-style shrimp that can be eaten alone but would taste perfect served over some linguini. I prefer it with some crusty Italian bread to soak up the sauce. The sauce is very simple with only several ingredients. As Lidia would say, “Tutti il tavolo a mangiare!”
Overall rating – 5 stars
Jumbo Shrimp Buzara Style
24 large raw shrimp (U-16 size)
8 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, or more to taste
3 plump garlic cloves, finely chopped
½ cup finely chopped shallots
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 cup of water
1 cup wine
¾ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon bread crumbs, or more, if needed
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
Devein the shrimp. Rinse the shrimp and pat dry. Pour ¼ cup of the olive oil into the saute pan and set over medium-high heat. Scatter in the garlic, cook until sizzling, then stir in the shallots. When they’re sizzling, stir in ¼ teaspoon of the salt and ¼ cup of the wine. Cook, stirring frequently, until the wine is nearly completely evaporated and the shallots have softened. Drop in the tomato paste and stir it around the pan for a minute, coating the shallots and caramelizing. Pour in the rest of the wine, bring to a boil quickly, then add the water and ¼ teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and let the sauce bubble gently and reduce for about 5 minutes while you sear the shrimp.
Pour 2 tablespoons olive oil into a second skillet, and set over high heat until very hot. Scatter the shrimp in the pan, toss them in the oil, and season with the remaining ½ teaspoon salt. Cook for just a minute or slightly longer, until the shells are lightly colored and the flesh underneath is opaque, then turn off the heat. With the sauce still bubbling, slide in the seared shrimp and tumble to coat them well with sauce. Stir in the coarsely ground pepper, then the tablespoon of bread crumbs—use more crumbs if the sauce is thin. Cook for another 2 minutes then turn off the heat.
Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over the mixture and incorporate it well. Sprinkle with parsley on top and serve immediately. Makes 6 servings.