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Valentine’s Day Dinner At Home – Pasta And Shrimp Arrabbiata

Please don’t judge me, but I don’t put a lot of effort into Valentine’s Day.  You see, my family is in heavy birthday season in January and February and to be honest, by the time V-day rolls around, we are pretty much celebrated out. Well, at least I know I am.

I always have last minute pangs of guilt for not planning anything special for Valentine’s Day. Last year, however, that last minute guilt turned into one of my favorite family memories yet…the kids and I played a game – “Italian restaurant” – and surprised Daddy with a fun, delicious dinner at home, filled with lots of good food and lots of love.

While I put together an easy Italian meal of pasta, garlic bread and green salad (with wine, for the grown-ups of course), the kids decorated the kitchen table with a tablecloth, candles and cut out hearts…all the while Mambo Italiano was playing on Pandora in the background. Our dessert was made super easily by dipping strawberries and clementines into chocolate, which we enjoyed while watching tv together as a family after dinner. It turned out to be a pretty wonderful and pretty effortless Valentine’s Day after all…and no dinner reservation was necessary!

This kicked up pasta and shrimp dish is a perfect Italian restaurant meal you can make at home easily. If you have members of the family that aren’t into the ‘heat’ in this dish, add the red pepper flakes at the end. Serve it with a simple salad with vinaigrette and some crusty sliced Italian bread with Carrabba’s copy cat bread dip. I guarantee your family will feel extra special and loved!!

Pasta and Shrimp Arrabbiata
Recipe slightly adapted from Cooking Light

1 box whole wheat spaghetti or linguine
2 tablespoons olive oil
1.25 lbs large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (more or less to taste)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 large can (28oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
big pinch salt and pepper
additional olive oil, for drizzling
freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Cook pasta according to directions. Drain and set aside, keep warm.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat. Season shrimp with salt and pepper and add shrimp to pan. Cook for 2 minutes on each side or until shrimp are pink. Transfer shrimp to a plate.

Add another tablespoon of olive oil to pan along with onion, garlic, oregano and crushed red pepper. Add tomato paste and tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Cook for a few minutes until sauce starts to come together and thicken. Add shrimp back into pan and combine gently until heated through.

Gently toss pasta with shrimp and sauce and serve in large bowls with a drizzle of olive oil, freshly grated Parmesan and additional red pepper flakes.

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