A Taste of Paris in Boca Grande: Spaghetti with fresh tomato sauce and shrimp

January 29, 2021
By Marcy Shortuse

Braden Perkins was born in New Orleans Louisiana and grew up in Boston. Braden worked for four years with celebrity chef Tom Douglas in Seattle. In 2011 Braden and his partner, Laura Adrian, opened their first restaurant, Verjus beside the Palais Royal in the center of Paris, France.

In 2015 the duo opened their second restaurant just down the street from the first. In 2020 they purchased a farm just outside Paris and will begin construction on a restaurant at the farm in the spring of 2021.

Braden has been featured on “The Barefoot Contessa” with Ina Garten, as well as in the “New York Times,” “The Wall Street Journal,” “Bon Appétit,” “Saveur,” “Food and Wine,” “Travel and Leisure,” “Afar,” “Goop,” “Milk Street” and other publications.

Laura Adrian is the daughter of island tennis legend Joe Adrian. Braden and Laura are on the island for a time, and graciously are allowing us to publish some of their recipes.

BY BRADEN PERKINS – Leave Florence and head west. Drive past the tall cypress trees and rolling Tuscan hills. Past the town of Panzano and Dario’s famous steaks. Past the hilltop village of San Gimignano and its world’s best gelato. Past the walled town of Siena. Past the seaside detritus of mini-golf and go-karts. Through the one-lane switchbacks and glimpses of the sea. Down the long driveway, through the gate, past the grass tennis court to the hotel Il Pellicano.

In another life you would have made this journey every summer, as a guest of the original American owners. You would have been sitting with your feet in the pool, drinking spritz, eating bright green olives and socializing with regulars like Charlie Chaplin, Henry Fonda, Kirk Douglas and Sophia Loren. The dogs and children would play in the private cove. Climbing over the rocks, diving off the dock and floating in the water, buoyed above the surface of the salty Tyrrhenian Sea.

As the sun sets and the heat clings to the stones, the crowd moves into the lounge, where a barman in a white blazer mixes Negronis and a player gently keys the grand piano into the clatter of glasses and conversation. Eventually, you will end up at the Pelligrill restaurant, where each table glows dimly under a golden table lamp and will soon to be crowded with antipasti, ice cold Verdicchio or Chianti and chef Gioia’s big bowls of pasta and briny seafood.

In a restaurant kitchen, there is a large stockpot that occupies the top left burner. Salted water simmers away in the pot while wire baskets in the shape of trivial pursuit pieces hang from the edge. As the night goes on, the water in the pot continues to reduce into the starchy secret ingredient of Italian cookery. This magic water can emulsify salty sheep milk cheese and crushed black pepper into a melty Cacio et Pepe pasta in Rome or can turn this easy recipe of shrimp and tomatoes into a fresh sauce that binds to each long strand of al dente spaghetti.

The tomatoes, poblano peppers, garlic and lemons can be found at Dusty’s produce at the Boca Grande Farmer’s market. The pink shrimp can be found at the Island Seafood Market truck, also at the market. Shrimp can easily be substituted for zucchini or omitted altogether. For the spaghetti, I highly recommend Setaro from near Naples (Italy) which can be bought online. The best dried pasta like Setaro is made by pushing the dough slowly through a bronze mold. A byproduct of the slow process is a textured surface on the pasta which soaks up sauce and cannot be found on commercial brands.

Spaghetti with fresh tomato sauce and pink shrimp

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup crisp white wine (Verdicchio, Pinot Grigio or Sancerre)

3 large ripe tomatoes (quartered)

1 green poblano pepper (sliced)

1/2 tsp red chili flakes

6 cloves of garlic (sliced)

Juice of 1 lemon

10 sprigs of parsley (chopped)

1 1/2 cups pasta cooking water

1 lb of Florida pink shrimp (shelled and cut into pieces)

3/4 lb of spaghetti

1/2 cup freshly grated aged parmesan

DIRECTIONS

1. Heat white wine in a sauce pan.

2. Add tomatoes, poblano peppers, chili flakes, garlic and 1/2 of the lemon juice.

3. Cover pan and simmer until tomatoes melt into the wine.

4. Cook spaghetti in a stock pot of generously salted water, stirring often.

5. While pasta is cooking, scoop 1/2 cup of cooking water from the pasta water into the tomato sauce.

6. When pasta easily bends, but before it reaches al dente, scoop another cup of pasta water out of the stock pot and reserve, then strain the pasta.

7. Drizzle the spaghetti with olive oil to prevent it from sticking together.

8. Salt and taste the tomato sauce, it should be saltier then you like as the pasta will bland the sauce slightly.

9. Add the cooked spaghetti, the chopped shrimp and the final cup of pasta water. The pasta to sauce ratio will look soupy, this is normal. By the time people take the first serving, it will all come together perfectly.

10. Remove the sauce pan from the stove, stir in the rest of the lemon, 1/2 of the parsley and check if it needs more salt (it usually does).

11. Using tongs, place all the pasta in a large serving bowl, then pour sauce and shrimp over the spaghetti.

12. Sprinkle with aged Parmesan, the rest of the parsley and serve.

*Clarification to “Pommes Anna” recipe in which I suggested a “bushel” of parsley. I meant a bunch of parsley, or 12 sprigs.