A couple of months ago my brother moved to a new city (which happens to be much closer to me now, yay!). My mom helped him get all set up, and since it was a short drive for me, I went over there for the weekend. We helped him arrange some of his furniture, went grocery shopping, drove around the town, and, of course, went out to dinner. We had made reservations at a restaurant, but decided to walk around downtown and get a few cocktails and an appetizer before we went to dinner. We ended up at a restaurant/bar and peered over the menu. We were unsure of what to order, because everything looked so good, but we decided on calamari with a pumpkin seed pesto.
It turned out to be a great choice. None of us had ever had a pumpkin seed pesto and were surprised how well it went with the crispy calamari. I knew it was something I had to replicate, and I’m pretty sure all three of us were talking about what else we could pair it with right then.
I decided to put it over pasta and serve it with crispy shrimp; an ode to the calamari that we originally tried with it. The coating from the cornstarch and flour keep it light, yet give the shrimp great texture. The pumpkin seed pesto turned out to be such a hit – I’ve been putting it on all sorts of things – pasta, ravioli, sandwiches, and just spread on some toasts. It’s seriously one of my favorite condiments right now (which I know is hyperbole because everything seems to be always my favorite, but still). Luckily, it’s quick to prepare and can keep in the fridge for awhile, but it probably won’t last very long. If you have a recipe that calls for pesto, try swapping in this one instead, you may be pleasantly surprised.
Pumpkin Seed Pesto Pasta with Crispy Shrimp
For the Pumpkin Seed Pesto:
1/2 cup roasted & salted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
3 cloves garlic
3 Tbsp chopped basil
Juice of half of a lemon
3/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper
For the pasta:
16-20 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
Salt and pepper
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp oil
1 Tbsp butter
3/4 lb linguine, cooked & drain according to package (it’s about half of a box – this feeds about 4 people)
Reserved pasta water
Begin by making the pumpkin seed pesto. Take the pumpkin seeds and garlic and pulse them in a food processor about 6 times or until they have been chopped up finely. Add the basil and lemon to the pumpkin seeds and garlic, then, while pulsing, add the olive oil in a thin drizzle until incorporated. You may have to add more or less oil depending upon the consistency that you like. Season with salt and pepper and transfer into a bowl and put in the fridge until ready to use (I like to let mine meld for at least an hour to develop flavors, but this can be made way ahead of time, too).
Place the shrimp into a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Add the cornstarch and flour and toss to combine. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat with the oil and the butter. Once the pan is hot, add the coated shrimp, tapping off any excess. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until brown and crispy on one side, then flip and continue to cook until the other side is browned and the shrimp have been cooked through, another 2-3 minutes. Remove the shrimp and set aside.
In the same pan you used to cook the shrimp, add the pesto (you can use all of it for a heavy pesto sauce, or half of it for a light sauce) and cook over low until it gets a little loose (just a minute or two)- you can add a few tablespoons of water to help (just depends on how loose or tight you want your pesto), then turn off the heat as to not burn the garlic in the pesto. Add the pasta and toss to combine. Once the pasta is coated in the pesto, transfer to plates and add the shrimp. Serve immediately.