Ancho Chile, Shrimp, and Pasta

You know one of the great things about being a home cook? You can basically do whatever you want in your kitchen. Mix up cuisines. Pair unlikely foods. As long as it tastes good and you like it, no great uber-chef in the sky is going to look aghast and tell you you can’t do what you’ve just done. Thank goodness! Case in point, this quick and easy pasta dish from my friend Peg Poswall. Ancho chiles (dried poblano chili peppers) are distinctively Mexican. Parmesan? That would be Italian. Tossed together with pasta and shrimp? Huh?

Believe me, it’s awesome.

We inhaled it. And the next day I made another batch just for me. It’s actually not that much of a stretch when you think about it. If you just replaced the ancho chiles with red chili pepper flakes you would have something that would at least appear to be more classically Italian, with the garlic, olive oil, and Parmesan. It’s the distinctive flavor of the ancho chile that provides the Wow factor here.

Ancho Chile, Shrimp, and Pasta Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 2 as a main or 4 to 6 as a side.

If you don't have access to ancho chiles, you can steer more to the Italian side and just use 1/4 teaspoon of red chili flakes to brighten up this dish.

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces long, thin pasta such as spaghetti or fettucini
  • Salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (grapeseed or canola)
  • 3 thinly sliced cloves garlic
  • 1 ounce (about 2 medium to large) dried ancho chiles, rinsed, seeded and deveined
  • 1/2 pound 21-25 count raw shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tails removed, the shrimp pieces cut into thirds
  • Black pepper
  • Freshly grated Parmesan
  • Lime or lemon juice, fresh squeezed

Method

1 Put a large pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta when you start this recipe. Once the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook until al dente. While the water is coming to a boil and while the pasta is cooking, prepare the rest of the recipe as follows.

2 Heat oil in a small skillet on medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add sliced garlic. Cook until lightly browned, then remove with a slotted spoon to a large bowl.

3 Thinly slice the ancho chiles (can chiffonade as you would with basil, just roll up into a cigar shape and slice crosswise). Add the sliced chiles to the hot oil and cook ONLY for 20 to 30 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon to the bowl with the garlic. Do not over-cook the chiles or they will get bitter.

ancho-chile-shrimp-3.jpgancho-chile-shrimp-4.jpg

4 Add the raw shrimp to the pan with the now chile and garlic infused oil. Increase the heat to high, cook for a couple minutes, stirring frequently, until the shrimp is just turning pink. Remove from heat. Add the shrimp and oil to the bowl with the garlic and chiles.

5 Add the drained, cooked pasta to the bowl with the shrimp, garlic, chiles, and oil. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper and toss to combine. To serve, portion out into bowls, sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan and a little lemon or lime juice.

36 Comments

  1. Brad

    So you’re not doing anything to reconstitute the chilis other than cooking them in the oil? Just clarifying because I’m totally going to try this. :)

    Nope, you’re just frying the slivered chiles in the oil. That way you infuse the oil with the chili flavor. ~Elise

  2. Robert E

    This recipe is similar to one I got years ago for chilied shrimp and pasta. My recipe adds cubed avocados to the dish just before serving for a creamy cool component.

    Bet it would go well with this dish too!

  3. Jenni

    I had the same question as Brad. By frying the chilies in the oil make them moist or does it retain a hard-like texture? Looks amazing that is for sure!

    Hmm, frying the chiles makes them crispy and moist at the same time. Not hard. ~Elise

  4. Edith

    I love combining the unexpected! I’m thinking of subbing grated cotija cheese for the parm. Cooking with dried chiles is new to me, so not sure how the tastes/textures compare. I have leftover guajillo chiles from a recent Posole recipe you posted. Think those could be subbed for the ancho chiles?

    I tried substituting cotija the second time I made this and ended up just adding Parmesan after all. As for the guajillo, I’m not sure. I don’t know if they will fry up soft enough. But you could try it. The cool thing about the anchos is they are both soft and crispy at the same time. ~Elise

  5. Kath

    That just looks incredibly good! What a creative dish. It’s quite simple, but I never would have thought of combining the ancho chiles with shrimp and pasta. Bravo!

  6. Kathleen

    Elise, this dish looks divine! Where would I find ancho chilis? I have never heard of them before. Are they readily available in the Mexican section at the grociery?

    Yes, you should be able to find them in the Mexican section at the grocery if they carry dried chiles. Otherwise you can find them in any Mexican market, or online. ~Elise

  7. Lulu

    This looks really good and easy. I’d like to try it this weekend. Just one question, because I’m not familiar with ancho chilies. Are they very hot? I personally love my food hot and spicy, but BF can only take a very tiny amount of heat.

    My experience with anchos is that no, they are not very hot. They do have a distinctive chili flavor though. ~Elise

  8. Brandon @ Kitchen Konfidence

    I love using ancho chiles. They have such a wonderful, complex flavor. Definitely going to give this a try.

    PS. I recently made ancho chile powder at home. Toast up some prepped anchos in the oven, cool then blend in a spice grinder. The smell is pure heaven!

  9. valerie

    yumm this looks amazing, can’t wait to make it this week… Another option for this dish is for people to then put the hot oil once a little cooled in the blender with the fried chile’s and garlic and you have an amazing sauce you can put over pasta, or even use as a marinade for meats :)

  10. Danielle

    I bought ancho chilies for the first time the other week. They are delicious! I never thought to incorporate them in a pasta dish but I love the idea! I will have to try this soon. Although…the Italian in me will not be adding the cheese. The Italians look down upon cheese added to seafood, haha (but I won’t tell).

  11. Linda Nguyen

    Thanks for all of your receipes, Elise. Your website is by far my favorite place to look for new recipes to try and they are always excellent!
    Quick question: could I use olive oil instead of grapeseed or canola oil? Or will that interfere with the taste too much? I have been told that olive oil is healthier so I try to use it when I can.

    You can use it, just know that it isn’t the best oil to use for deep frying, which is what you are doing with the garlic slices and ancho chile slices. The other oils have a higher smoke point, which means they remain stable at higher temperatures. ~Elise

  12. Arlene

    This really looks good and I’m planning to try this recipe. My comment concerns the recipe yield, though. Two ounces of pasta per person is the recommended amount for an entree. Using 8 oz. in a recipe will serve four people as a main dish, not two as you’ve said. As a side dish, I suspect there would be enough for eight portions. In America, we’ve become used to huge portions on our plates, but 4 oz. of spaghetti per person is really too big a portion for an average main dish unless you’re serving dinner to 300 lb. football players…

    I guess I just like leftovers! and the men in my family eat large portions. ;-) ~Elise

  13. Kathi Riley Smith

    I have often used the combination of ancho chile, garlic and a little either orange juice or orange zest in the same dish. The sweetness of the orange contrasts the slightly bitter and sweet chile really nicely. Thanks for the reminder of turning this into a pasta recipe.

  14. Tish

    We cooked this recipe last week, my whole family agreed, it was just okay, tasted like it was missing something. I think it would’ve been better to reconstitute the peppers, then cook them in the oil. Also, maybe adding cumin, bacon, fresh tomatoes and citrus zest would be a help.

  15. Erin

    Sounds yummy… do ancho chiles taste similar to chipotle in adobo sauce?

    No. Chipotle chiles in adobo have a very strong smokey flavor that anchos do not have. ~Elise

  16. shannon ekberg

    Can I use fresh poblano peppers if I cannot find dried ones? Should I roast them first?

    No. This recipe requires the dried chiles. ~Elise

  17. Petra

    The dried ancho chilies stayed dry and unedible for me even after adding to oil. I had to remove them from the pasta upon realizing this! They also did not add any noticeable spiciness to the dish, so I must have gotten the wrong kind? I bought dried ancho chilies from Goya.

  18. cindy atkins

    Tried this, loved it! I always make a recipe just as it’s written before I go changing it, but I don’t think I’d change a thing. Quick, easy, delicious. The hardest part was finding the dried ancho chilies . . . finally found them in the hispanic market.

  19. Monica

    WOW!! I just made this and it came out AMAZING!! Even my 5 year old was having at it and it was spicy (I didn’t devain it because my husband likes the heat, looks like our little boy is following in his daddy’s foot steps)! I will be making this again. I used Chile Pasilla-Ancho, is that the same thing as the Chile Ancho? I was confused about that, but either way it was delicious!
    Thanks for the great recipe :)

    Yes, the names can be confusing. It is an ancho chile (also known as chile ancho). In some parts of Mexico, this particular chile is called pasilla. Which can be confusing because in the rest of Mexico the pasilla chile is completely different. So if you see a package that says “pasilla ancho” it is the ancho chile. ~Elise

  20. julie

    I tried this tonight, including dried chipotle with the anchos, and enjoyed it, though I think I may have overcooked the chiles despite your warning. It’s a shame, because their texture with the shrimp & noodles is a perfect harmony.

  21. Marvin

    I’m eating this right now and it’s amazing. It’s super easy. I’ve never used dried ancho chiles before…. they’re good…. kinda taste like raisins…. delicious.

  22. Phil

    “Ancho chiles (dried poblano chili peppers) are distinctively Mexican. Parmesan? That would be Italian.” Er, no. No proper Italian chef I know would ever put cheese [let alone Parmesan] on shrimp or any other kind of seafood. Other than that, the dish looks wonderful. I look forward to trying it [with cheese]

    Hi Phil, I was referring to the cheese being Italian, not the dish. By the way, a Greek favorite is feta with shrimp. So cheese can go with shrimp. It just depends on the dish. ~Elise

Post a comment

Your comment may need to be approved before it will appear on the site. Thanks for waiting. First time commenting? Please review the Comment Policy.

Some HTML is OK. URLs are automatically converted to links. Line breaks are automatically converted to paragraphs. The following HTML tags are allowed: a, abbr, acronym, b, blockquote, cite, code, del, em, i, q, strike, strong