Butter vs Olive Oil – Penne with Shrimp, Fresh Herbs and Lemon

Photo by KathyHuntPhoto.com

There was a time when most any meal I set out to cook began with a big glob of butter melting in a hot pan. Whether it was sautéing onions for a casserole, browning chicken for a braise, or scrambling an egg; it all started with butter. Then as I began reading about nutrition and becoming more conscious of my health, slowly but surely I transitioned to olive oil. Quietly and gradually, somewhere over the last few years, olive oil became my butter.

Through most of my years of cooking, it was not unusual for me to use a pound of butter per week, or at least every couple of weeks. Nowadays it is a rare purchase indeed and though I still keep (un-salted) butter around for a special treat in a pan-sauce or on my Sunday morning toast…I can honestly say the transition is complete. And why not?

Butter is a saturated fat too much of which can contribute to the build-up of blood cholesterol – Olive oil actually contains anti-oxidants and monounsaturated fats that have been proven to help lower cholesterol. Olive oil also contains vitamins E, K, and A, powerful anti-inflammatory properties and a host of other health benefits.

So why eat butter at all? Well, aside from that wonderful flavor there are a few good things about butter. For one, it does not contain any trans-fat, it also contains beneficial vitamins and minerals, can be high in Omega 3, and can even help your body fight off cancer cells. There is a great article at getmybodyback.com that discusses the details.

To my thinking these days, a little butter goes a long way…It’s a good fit in my “everything in moderation” theory that I mention so often. Butter is not inherently evil but it can easily be too much of a good thing. If you balance it out with a good bit of olive oil though, I think you can find a happy medium that will help you live a longer and more enjoyable life.

Recipe notes: This recipe uses olive oil as the base for the “sauce”. It is surprising in that it is not dripping in fat or greasy tasting. The idea is to coat the pasta rather than drenching it in a heavy sauce. The recipe comes together very quickly so I recommend having all of your ingredients ready to go by the time the pasta is almost ready to drain.

Penne with Shrimp, Fresh Herbs and Lemon

1 Lb – Med fresh shrimp, peeled & deveined
1/3 Cup – Extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp – Fresh garlic, minced
2 Sprigs – Fresh thyme
½ Tsp – Dried red pepper flakes
8 Oz – Dried 100% whole wheat penne
Juice of ½ Lemon
1 to 2 Tbsp – Fresh basil chiffonade
Fresh Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper

Add a tablespoon of kosher salt to a large pot of water over medium-high heat. When the water comes to a boil gently stir in the pasta. Continue stirring occasionally and cook 8 to 10 minutes or until the pasta has softened to your desired doneness.

When the pasta is roughly two minutes from being done, heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, stir in the garlic, thyme, red pepper flakes and about ¼ teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper. Stir constantly for about 30 seconds then add the shrimp in a single layer. Shake the pan to “nestle” the ingredients.

Meanwhile, test the pasta for doneness, and drain into a colander reserving a little of the pasta water on the side.

After about 2 minutes, shake the pan again to loosen any shrimp that may be sticking and turn the shrimp over. Cook 2 minutes more on the second side then add the lemon juice and a couple of tablespoons of the pasta water. Cook another minute and remove the pan from the heat. To finish, stir in the pasta and the basil, gently tossing to combine.

Serve with fresh grated parmesan sprinkled over the pasta.

Enjoy!

Randy

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