Do you experience "spice" cravings like I do? It's this odd sensation that compels me to torture my tongue. It's the absolute weirdest thing, and if you're a home cook like me, I'm sure you experience the same thing.
We're not crazy though. There is some serious science going on behind the scenes. When capsaicin hits the tongue, it immediately perpetuates a chain of reactions which ultimately leads to pain, and subsequently your pain-killing neurotransmitters like dopamine.
Dopamine feels really good, and when you experience it in high amounts, your brain can remember what set those good feelings off. This can make you naturally gravitate towards things that initially cause pain (think running, exercise, or doing something you're extremely fearful of).
Now for the ultimate fix!
While I've dabbled plenty in the realm of chili peppers, there is nothing that settles my cravings quite like spicy shrimp pasta. We've found that a lot of recipes try to overcomplicate this delicacy. Like my Pappy always said,
"If it's not broken, don't fix it."
Here is our tried and true spicy shrimp recipe! Enjoy!
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and season with kosher salt.
2. Cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente (usually about 8- 11 minutes). Scoop 1/4 cup of the pasta water out of the pot and set aside, then drain the pasta and transfer to a bowl.
3. While the pasta is cooking, pat the shrimps with a paper towel to dry them. Sprinkle lightly with salt on both sides.
4. Put a large skillet over medium-high heat. Pour in the olive oil. When it starts to shimmer, add the shrimp in one layer. Cook 2 minutes, then turn them over and continue cooking until they turn pink and opaque, about 1 more minute.
5. Add the tomatoes, garlic, butter or ghee, dried thyme and chili to the pan and stir. When the butter is melted, add wine and 2 or 3 tablespoons of the reserved pasta water and swirl around until saucy (add more if needed, a tablespoon at a time).
6. Pour the shrimp and sauce over the pasta. Top with fresh thyme, basil and Parmesan cheese to taste. Toss gently and serve.
Time it right and you could have this meal prepared and cooked in 30 minutes. It is a simple, yet delicious crowd pleaser that anybody can get on-board with.
The Simplicity of this Recipe
One of the main reasons we admire this recipe so much is that it's simple, yet delicious. This has progressively become our motto here at Robust Kitchen because we know the time constraints of a busy lifestyle. We want delicious and we want it now 🙂
However, we also can appreciate the need for experimentation. Here are some other ingredients you can substitute (or add in) if you so wish.
If you've never made a spicy shrimp pasta before, we recommend sticking to our original recipe. Then you can see your like and dislikes and make the proper adjustments.
Back to the Science of Spice
So why do we have these "spice" receptors on our tongue. What do they do for us and why do we experience pain when they're activated?
Well, firstly, spice is not a taste.
Capsaicin, the chemical compound responsible for the burning sensation, is a chemical irritant. It triggers the same response that you incur with overly hot food or drink. When you eat overly hot food, thermoreceptors on your tongue (TRPV1) send signals to your brain that are meant to protect you from inflicting damage on your body.
Capsaicin, although relatively harmless in lower doses, triggers this same receptor, giving the impression of heat when in fact the food could be legitimately cold. A weird accident (maybe not) in our evolutionary journey to humanhood.
Either way, like a lot of painful things in life, we've acclimated and allowed it to add variety and depth to our experiences. Can you imagine what life would be like without spicy food?
Spice isn't just a component of cooking anymore. For many, it's become the sole motivation for cooking some of our favorite dishes. If you don't agree, look at Mexican food.
Without spice, Mexican food would just be oily carbs and meat mixed with some veggies. The spice cuts through the fatty meat and heightens the flavor of surrounding veggies. To mistake spice for an expendable ingredient would be a huge mistake.
When we have a craving for spice, this spicy shrimp pasta is our first dish of interest. We love what it does to the taste buds. We think you will too.
Please leave a comment below if you have any questions, comments or suggestions!