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Welcome back to In The Kitchen at Morrell

Cooking is an art of balance. From the moment that you begin to develop a new recipe, you must consider how each ingredient will affect the others around it. Often a chef will tinker with a sauce for hours before they feel that they have it just right. We’ve all seen it in the movies, and you might be surprised to learn that reality is often the exact same way, a chef standing over a pot with a pinch of this and a pinch of that, then taste and taste again. Too much salt, too much acid, too much heat—all of these can be combatted by adding another ingredient that will provide balance.

But when it comes time to pair a wine with such a recipe, that’s a challenge that requires the trained palate of a sommelier, because wine brings in a whole new dimension to any food it interacts with. This is the result of the alcohol in wine, which accentuates the flavors of nearly everything it touches—including SPICE. There are some general guidelines to pairing wine with spicy foods. A rule of thumb is to look for either a low alcohol wine or one with residual sweetness. This is why you’ll often find German Spatlese on tables at Indian restaurants. However, a trained sommelier can look beyond the obvious and often introduce something unexpected that will make the perfect pairing.

Welcome back to Morrell’s kitchen, and this is a dish that has the Italian in me watering at the mouth.  Also, don’t forget that our Chef’s Spicy Shrimp with Spaghetti Marinare will be featured on our menu through August, along with the wine pairings from our two Somms.

Spicy Shrimp with Spaghetti Marinara

“Spicy shrimp, spaghetti and marinara sauce? Who doesn’t love that?? Besides the fact that the sauce is so easy to make, it’s also one of the most popular sauces found throughout the world. Here the crushed pepper lends just a kick of heat that complements the sweetness of the tomatoes and brings out the flavor of the shrimp. This traditional Italian dish is a real keeper.” — Chef Juan Carlos Mendoza


Ingredients for Pasta (Serves 4)

16 Ounces Spaghetti
2 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

Ingredients for Marinara Sauce

3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 large size shallot, chopped
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, plus more to taste
1 28-ounce can whole crushed tomatoes
1 cup red wine
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided on two equal parts
1 cup fresh basil, sliced, or Micro basil

Ingredients for Spicy Shrimp

1 pound peeled 71-90 shrimp
2 cloves chopped garlic
1 tablespoons Espelette Pepper
Juice and Zest of one lemon


The Sauce Method

  1. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add the shallots, garlic, and red pepper flakes, and cook, stirring, until the shallots and garlic softens, about one minute.
  3. Incorporate the wine and let it reduce to about half of its amount.
  4. Add the tomatoes and one part of grated parmesan (leaving the rest for plating).
  5. Add 1/2 cup water and half of the basil.
  6. Bring the sauce to a boil, then stir and reduce the heat to medium low; simmer 15 minutes. Season with salt and taste.

Start your pasta

Add the pasta to a large pot of boiling salted water and set your timer to cook for 8-10 minutes until al dente.


The Shrimp Method

  1. In a bowl, toss the shrimp, salt, black pepper, espelette pepper, and lemon juice.
  2. In a separate skillet over high heat with enough cooking oil to coat the bottom of the pan, add the seasoned shrimps and cook, stirring occasionally until it starts to brown, about 1-2 minutes. Then set aside.
  3. Go back to your sauce and Increase the heat to medium high.
  4. Add the remaining basil and season with salt and more red pepper flakes, if desired.
  5. Drain the pasta and add to the skillet with the sauce; toss.


Time to Plate

  1. Divide the pasta among bowls or plates and drizzle with olive oil.
  2. Top with Shrimp or place them round the pasta to form a border.
  3. Top with Parmesan cheese and more basil for garnish.

Wine Pairings

So where would you go with this dish? Keep in mind that you have the delicate flavors of shrimp, which are accentuated by the heat of the Espelette Pepper. However, you also need to take the acidity and sweetness of the tomato sauce into account. The recipe itself may seem simple, but finding the perfect pairing—that’s a different story.

Anna-Christina Cabrales

Pairing: Calon-Segur St. Estephe 1995

Why it works: I love the spice and basil components of this dish. I reached for something rustic and developed in nature with hopes to not bring the pairing out of balance. I mean this in the sense where one overpowers the other, which I think would be easy to do with a young, structured Chianti that may otherwise show a very woody profile or a Syrah that may be a bit too bold in its early stages. This wine coming from a powerful vintage is drinking elegantly at the moment. Flavors of ripe and dried cherries come out on the forefront, entangled with dried earth and leaves, along with sweet spices that linger in the back end of the palate but highlights the complexity of the sauce and the spice of the shrimp.

My thoughts: I would have never thought to go in this direction, but Anna really nailed it. The most important thing about why this pairing works is the wine’s maturity, as the tannins in a young Bordeaux would have overpowered the seafood. As for Bordeaux and tomato sauce—Classic!

Christian Fentress

Pairing: Borgo del Tiglio Friulano Collio 2014

Why it works: My first thought with this pairing was something to highlight the seafood in the dish and making it the star. Playing on the inherent minerality of this wine, it serves to complement the sweet brine of the shrimp. The light green herbal tones and round stone fruit sweetness surprisingly plays well with the spicy marinara sauce, which I think is sometimes a tricky pairing. A really fun pairing as we transition into the fall.

My thoughts: Here, Christian looked to the seafood with his pairing, and it was a good call. What’s more, the inherent textural richness and fruit of the Friulano was a perfect complement to the spicy nature of the dish. Well played.

To Sum It All Up

What I took from this month’s recipe and pairing was to not allow myself to get trapped in the idea of classic pairings. Spicy food is always a challenge, and I must admit to being surprised when I first saw the wines on the table, but in the end, each one was inspired and truly exceptional. As for the Spicy Shrimp with Spaghetti Marinara, this is a dish that brought me back to summers as a kid in my grandmother’s back yard, so you can image how happy I was. If you don’t have memories like that of your own, then I urge you to start making some new ones and check this dish out.

Until next month, keep cooking and tasting!

Eric Guido
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