Now it’s time to choose an entree for our romantic, but quick to prepare, Valentine’s Day meal. For this occasion, I have chosen Pasta with Browned Butter and Mizithra Cheese. It is a meal that I have actually prepared for weeknight Valentine’s or anniversary meals in the past. It is incredibly quick and easy to make, but is still a very delicious and elegant meal. For this particular menu, the pasta can actually stand on it’s own with the roasted pear salad, without adding any other side dishes or meats. But I have also provided the option of adding Skillet Seared Shrimp to the pasta. If you wish, you could add an additional vegetable (roasted broccoli or asparagus would go particularly well), and serve the salad as an appetizer. Or you could just keep it extra simple and use the salad as your vegetable. Your choice.
First, let’s talk about the pasta.
This pasta has only three ingredients. I don’t think anything could be easier. Mizithra is a Greek cheese made of sheep’s milk. It is hard, salty, and it doesn’t really make a good snacking cheese. It can be a little tricky to find, but a well-stocked store should carry it. I have had success in Italian markets, cheese shops, and even just larger grocery stores with a good cheese variety. For the pasta, you can really use whatever you prefer. I like to use a fresh (refrigerated or frozen) pasta. You could even use a stuffed pasta, like tortellini or ravioli if you wish. This time, used a dried pasta that was a fancy shape – Flowers, and it looked kind of like daffodils when it was cooked. The third ingredient – butter, doesn’t need much explanation. Salted or unsalted works fine.
Making the pasta only requires a couple steps: Cooking the pasta (follow the directions on the package), and browning the butter.
Browned butter is one of those things that makes everything better. Anywhere you would use melted butter, browned butter will add a richer flavor. You start with adding the butter to a pan over medium heat.
It will first melt, then the solids will separate out. Give it a stir with a spatula or silicone spoon. It’s not done yet, but keep an eye on it. It can go from looking like this to burned pretty quick.
Eventually, the solids will turn a golden brown, and it will smell rich and nutty. Now it’s done. Unless you’re ready to use it right now, pour it into a bowl. Keeping it in the hot pan can cause it to burn.
When the pasta is done boiling, drain it, then plate your desired portion on a plate or bowl. Grate a generous amount of the Mizithra over the pasta, then pour some browned butter over the cheese. You don’t need much – maybe a teaspoon or two – the goal is just to add a bit of flavor and moisture, not to make your pasta swim. If you have some, sprinkle some chopped parsley over top for presentation.
Now for the shrimp. Of course, if you do decide to make these, you will be preparing them at the same time as the pasta.
You’ll be starting with shelled, deveined large shrimp. You’ll toss them with salt, pepper a little sugar.
The shrimp will be cooked in a hot skillet for only 1-2 minutes on each side. They will get get nice and brown. Make sure not to overcook them. There is nothing worse than overcooked seafood.
If you’ve chosen to serve the pasta in a bowl with no other vegetables, you can serve the shrimp right on top of the pasta. Otherwise, just put them on a plate beside the pasta.
Stay tuned for dessert!
- 2 cups dry pasta
- 2 Tbsp butter salted or unsalted
- 2 oz Mizithra cheese
- 1 1/2 lbs extra large shrimp peeled and deveined (21-15/lb)
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
- 1/8 tsp sugar
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
Cook pasta according to directions on the package. Drain.
Brown butter in a skillet over medium heat. Remove from heat when finished.
Grate cheese and divide evenly over each serving of pasta.
Pour browned butter over cheese on pasta, dividing evenly among pasta servings.
Toss the shrimp with salt, pepper and sugar in a bowl.
Heat oil in a 12 inch skillet over high heat until just smoking.
Add half of the shrimp in a single layer and cook until pink around the edges, about 1 minute. Flip shrimp with tongs and cook until shrimp are cooked though, 1-2 more minutes.
Remove shrimp from pan and repeat with the other half of the shrimp. Serve immediately.