Ancho Chile, Shrimp, and Pasta

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Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

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

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  • 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.

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Showing 4 of 29 Comments

  • Alastair

    First time with anchos. Excellent.

  • Fran

    we love this receipt! congrats, you show it very easy to do!!!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

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