By contributing writer Mary Cressler
I learned early on in my marriage that date nights were important to keep the spark going. But after having kids, they became a must! Having quiet time alone, sans kids, is essential for marital sanity, at least it is in my marriage. And it doesn’t have to mean hiring a babysitter and going out to an expensive restaurant to be able to enjoy some QT.
A majority of our date nights these days involve a quiet dinner at home after the kids go to bed. This not only saves us a ton of money from restaurant and babysitter fees, but also allows us to enjoy the comforts of our home and open whatever wine we want (without an obnoxious restaurant markup). It also encourages us to make use of our wood-burning fireplace. Bonus!
One thing date night at home does mean for us, however, is that dinner is going to be much later than usual. No babysitter means we are putting the kids to bed and then starting dinner. This means I want to make something quick and easy, yet delicious and indulgent. I want to spend the majority of my date night enjoying my husband’s company, not slaving away over the stove and dishes.
This grilled shrimp pasta is one of my favorite date night dinners to make. It comes together in no time, is elegant and light, and it won’t weigh you down. I’m not a fan of white wine/butter sauces that are too rich, liquidy, and heavy. This recipe has the perfect amount of liquid and aromatic wine sauce to flavor the pasta but without the greasiness found in many restaurant versions of this dish. That’s one of the benefits of making this at home – you get to control the ingredients!
This is also a dish my husband and I can make together (how romantic is that?). My husband is a wiz on the grill, and I like to focus on the indoor cooking. So while he is grilling up the shrimp, I’m starting on the sauce, cooking the noodles, and prepping the wine. As soon as the shrimp are cooked, we combine everything together for a beautiful, romantic, date night dinner at home. No babysitter needed!
- 4 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 clove garlic, finely diced
- 1 tablespoon shallots, finely diced
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- Salt & pepper, to taste
- ½ pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
- ½ pound thick noodles (such as linguine)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, finely diced
- 2 tablespoons shallots, finely diced
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- ¼ cup dry white wine (such as Sauvignon Blanc)
- The juice of half a lemon (about 2-3 tablespoons)
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
- In a large bowl, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, Dijon mustard, garlic, shallots, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper and whisk until combined. Taste and adjust flavors to your liking. Add the shrimp and coat with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate up to 30 minutes.
- Preheat your outdoor (or indoor) grill to medium heat.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add your pasta. Cook noodles according to package instructions. Reserve about ½ cup of the pasta water for later.
- Place the pre-marinated shrimp on the grill for 2-3 minutes each side, until they are pink and cooked through.
- In the meantime, heat up a large skillet to medium heat. Add butter and oil. Once butter is melted, add the garlic, shallots, and crushed red pepper flakes. Cook about 2-3 minutes until aromatic (be careful not to let the garlic brown and burn).
- Add the wine and lemon juice. Cook 3 additional minutes.
- Add the cooked shrimp, linguine, lemon zest, parsley, and any needed reserved pasta water and toss together. (I usually start with about ¼ cup of the pasta water. Add more or less depending on how quickly the noodles soak up the liquids).
- Serve with a lemon wedge.
Look for a dry fresh white wine with good acidity. You want something that can cut through any richness from the oil and butter but also has the acidity to stand up to the lemon flavors and strength to handle the garlic and red pepper flakes.
Pinot Grigio and other Italian white wines are great for this dish. Albarino is also a nice match for the shrimp, but I really love Sauvignon Blanc for this dish. I often find that Sauvignon Blanc can be a bit too acidic on it’s own, but with a dish like this, it really shines. I also like something a little less traditional for the dish – a dry Riesling. The fruitiness provides a nice contrast to the lemony focused flavors of the dish and also refreshes the palate from any heat from the red pepper flakes, but it has enough acidity to hold up to the bold flavors from the dish.
Robert Mondavi Winery Fumé Blanc 2013 (Napa Valley, CA) ~ $16
Made from 90% Sauvignon Blanc & 10% Semillon grapes, the wine is very bright and clean with fresh citrus aromas and flavors. It is clean and crisp on the palate with more citrus along with some mineral notes. This was my favorite with the dish as it really mirrored the flavors of the dish seamlessly, providing a lovely compliment. I also used this wine in the dish, providing a nice bridge from the dish to the pairing.
Hermann J. Wiemer Dry Riesling, Finger Lakes, NY) ~ $18
Great acidity stands out on this wine. It has lots of minerality and rich fruit characteristics (lime, apricot, peach) giving it a different element from the Sauvignon Blanc. The wine is dry (with just the tiniest bit of sweetness) and fresh, and the rich fruit flavors provide a nice contrast to the dish and also help to tame the palate from any heat from those red chili flakes.
Make sure to steer clear of red wines for dinner. If you just have to have red wine during your date night, save it for after dinner while sitting by the warm fire! What’s your favorite date night at home meal?
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Mary Cressler is a Certified Sommelier, a Wine Location Specialist, and the proprietor of Vindulge: Wine Education & Consulting. She conducts wine classes and events and offers consulting for individuals, restaurants, and event planners. She writes about wine, food, and travel on her blog Vindulge. Mary resides in Portland, Oregon with her husband, twin boys, and two Chihuahuas.