Spicy Southwest Shrimp Pasta

A little over 20 years ago (gasp!), I was on a business trip to Los Angeles and was staying in a hotel in the middle of Canoga Park, a cross between an office park and strip mall hell. Coincidentally, my brother Jim was also in the same area at the same time for a business trip as well. We decided to meet up at a local chain restaurant (I won’t mention their name but it rhymes with “Cheesecake Factory“) for dinner.

If you go back 20 years and examine the dining options in Ottawa at the time, the Cheesecake Factory would easily compete with the best Ottawa had to offer – bad original theme restaurants (GuadalaHarry’s, I.P. Looney’s), snooty French restaurants without the quality to back it up and already-tired steak and roast beef houses.

I ordered a pasta dish that came with sauteed shrimp, southwestern spices and a hint of BBQ sauce and vowed to try and improve upon the dish when I got home. I’ve been making this dish since then and probably haven’t made it the same way twice (like chili, I go by whim and what’s on hand) but follow a basic framework that provides a consistently good result.

Spicy Southwest Shrimp Pasta
Serves 4

1 pound wild-caught gulf shrimp
Red pepper seeded and diced
1/2 large sweet onion, diced
1 cob of fresh sweet corn, cut off the cob or about a cup of frozen corn – NEVER canned!
1/2 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce
1 tbsp. Southwest spice mix*
1 tbsp. Olive oil
1 pound of long, thin pasta noodles

Instructions:
1. Peel and clean shrimp and toss with spice mix and set aside

2. Fill pasta pot with salted water and set to boil

3. Add oil to hot, deep-sided sauté pan and add onions and red peppers. Sauté until tender and slightly browned on the edges.

4. Add corn to pan. Add shrimp and after the shrimp is cooked, mix in BBQ sauce and let simmer for 10 minutes

5. Place pasta and water and boil until cooked. Drain pasta and add to sauté pan with sauce and toss well.

* Southwest Spice Mix
If you can’t buy some pre-made, use below as a guide. It keeps for a very long time in a cool, dry place

2 tsp. dark brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. paprika
1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tsp. Chili powder
1/2 tsp. Cumin
1/2 tsp. Oregano

Click HERE for a printable version of this recipe.

4 thoughts on “Spicy Southwest Shrimp Pasta”

  1. You had me at ‘Spicy Southwest’. That looks really good. You talk about picking up premade spice, where do you recommend?

  2. For this instance I used a Dean & Deluca Southwestern Rub. I find that any bottled BBQ rub works, but you need to add a little heat (cayenne or chili flakes) and a little pungent greenery like some oregano.

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