If it makes you happy

The crème fraiche adds tons of flavor to the sauce in this saucy shrimp and pasta dish.

Maybe it’s listening to jazz, reading comic books, or shopping in thrift stores. Whatever makes you happy. Pasta makes me happy. I can honestly say that one of my favorite food items is pasta. Whether it’s cavatappi with a spicy Tuscan sauce, baked macaroni and cheese fresh from the oven, pasta salad made with homemade vinaigrette, or manicotti noodles stuffed with a hearty meat sauce, pasta dishes are simply irresistible. Serve it cold or hot, pasta is versatile as a side dish or as a main dish. Go to the supermarket and the pasta aisle offers a brimming array of pasta shapes and sizes. For the recipes here, I recommend using the type listed as described. Or, if you prefer, put on some Coltrane and make some French toast—whatever makes you happy.

Creamy, Cheesy Shrimp with Pasta

• 24 oz. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

• 1 TBSP. olive oil

• 1 small onion finely chopped

• 1 TBSP. minced garlic

• 1 TBSP. butter

• ½ tsp. Italian seasoning

• Salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste

• 1 (8 oz.) container crème fraiche cultured cream

• 2 TBSP. fresh lemon juice

• 1/3 cup sherry cooking wine

• ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes

• 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

• 8 oz. thin spaghetti, prepared according to package directions

• 1 ½ TBSP. all-purpose flour

• 2 tsp. milk

• 1/3 cup shredded or grated Parmesan cheese, for the top

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat; add the onions and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the shrimp and butter and cook on each side for 3 minutes, until shrimp is pink on all sides (add another tablespoon of butter if necessary). Season with Italian seasoning. Remove the shrimp from the pan and set aside. Reduce heat to low-medium heat, and add the crème fraiche, lemon juice, sherry cooking wine, and red pepper flakes. Bring sauce to a boil; season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and allow sauce to simmer for 2-3 minutes. In a small cup, whisk together the flour and milk; add the mixture to the pan, whisk until combined, and allow sauce to thicken. Return the shrimp to the skillet and toss with sauce to coat. Serve over cooked pasta noodles and top with additional Parmesan cheese.

Italian Chicken and Orzo Florentine Salad

• 2 TBSP. white wine vinegar

• 1 TBSP. balsamic vinegar

• ½ TBSP. sherry cooking wine

• 3 TBSP. honey

• ½ TBSP. lemon juice

• 3 TBSP. extra-virgin olive oil

• ¼ tsp. salt

• ¼ tsp. finely minced garlic

Whisk all ingredients together in a large bowl. Then, add to the bowl the following:

• 5-6 cooked thin-cut chicken breasts, chopped into bite-sized pieces (grilled, roasted, or pan-cooked in a skillet with olive oil and Italian herbs)

• 6 oz. fresh baby spinach leaves, torn into pieces

• 6 oz. cooked orzo pasta, drained well and rinsed under cold water

• 2 TBSP. pine nuts (place in a skillet and cook over medium heat, shaking the pan, until lightly toasted)

• ¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil (drained and julienned)

• ¼ cup sliced black olives

• 3 TBSP. shredded Parmesan cheese

• 2 TBSP. shredded Mozzarella cheese

• Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Refrigerate until ready to serve. Note: Can add some julienned radicchio or sliced red onion to the salad.

Stuffed Shells

• 1 (12 oz.) box jumbo pasta shells

• 1 large egg, lightly beaten

• 2 (15 oz.) containers ricotta cheese

• 1 (10 oz.) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

• ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus 3 TBSP. for the top

• ½ tsp. salt

• ¼ tsp. black pepper

• ½ tsp. Italian seasoning

• 1 (32 oz.) jar spaghetti sauce

• Fresh basil, optional

Cook the pasta shells according to the package directions; remove from the pot with tongs and place individual shells on a glass cutting board to drain. In a bowl, combine together the egg, ricotta cheese, chopped spinach (squeezed dry), ½ cup Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Stuff the shells with the spinach and cheese mixture. Place shells in a lightly greased 9x13 baking pan. Pour the pasta sauce evenly over the shells. Sprinkle the remaining 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese over the top. Cover the pan with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until heated all the way through. Garnish with fresh basil.

— Amy Fischer lives in Fort Payne, Alabama, and is a Southern food enthusiast who loves to spend time in the kitchen creating tasty recipes. You can contact her at facebook.com/MySouthernTable.

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