Shrimp with Penne and Creamy Jerk Sauce (or: The Overwhelming Relief of Not Having to Order a Pizza Because of a Failed Dinner)

I used to work at a small Italian restaurant where I catered to the middle class in the New Brunswick area and paid approximately zero attention to how food was made. That’s the excuse I have in my head as to why I thought a cream sauce would be so easy. I brought them out to crotchety retirees five nights a week. How challenging could it be?

Answer: Quite… if you’re a jumpy, muppet-armed amateur like myself.

An action shot of me in the kitchen.

A couple weeks ago I posted a jerk seasoning blend, which I put together to use in this dish from Immaculate Bites. Here’s my experience with the rest of the cooking:

Really, it’s a decent amount of prep, especially because I peeled and deveined the shrimp myself (BOO, but way cheaper) and made the spice blend. With all that, it took about 40-50 minutes just for prep, so by the time I started cooking, I was kind of over it. But I powered through it because goddamn if I’m going to stop a recipe halfway!

Everything was going just fine until, for some reason, I threw in a full cup of chicken stock instead of half a cup. I don’t know why I did that, but suspect I was probably just distracted (probably by my own hunger or a video of my roommate’s dog- both are equally likely). Imagine my dismay when, after so much prep, I watched the liquid disperse into the sauce and thin it out so tragically:

Pictured: the opposite of how this is supposed to look

Panic sets in. What can I used to soak it up? Kitchen sponge? No, Maggie, don’t be an idiot. What’s absorbent and not disgusting?

…and that train of thought is how I wound up with a slice of bread on top of my cream sauce. Stupid things to skim off sauce: sound familiar?

It soaked up some of the extra stock, but after some frantic Googling (which should have been my first damn step), I learned that flour is good for exactly this- used by sane, level-headed cooks everywhere. I very gradually added about 1/2 tbsp altogether until it was “better than it was” (the official motto of our household) and finally ate it. It tasted like a savory mask covering an angry sea of panic- but it was delicious. I made some changes and my version is below, but Immaculate Bites has the original and her other recipes look incredible, too. Overall, this could be a quick dish- if you’re not budget-conscious and/or a spaz. And watch out for that chicken stock- it’s a doozy.

Shrimp with Penne and Creamy Jerk Sauce

  • Servings: 4
  • Print

  • ½ pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 cups sliced white mushrooms
  • 1 tsp Jerk seasoning (you can buy premade seasoning that’s on the spicier side or make your own if you’re into that)
  • 8 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • Juice of ½ lemon (or more to taste)
  • ½ cup chicken stock
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup 2% milk
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • ½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (optional, but is cheese REALLY ever optional?)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 ounce penne pasta
  1. Cook the pasta according to box instructions (but you can do other stuff while it’s cooking: see below). Drain and set aside.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, lightly season shrimp with a little bit of jerk spice. I found that the best way to do it is by laying them all out on a baking sheet lined with tinfoil, sprinkling them with the spices, and then flipping them over and doing the same. It’s a nice way to make sure there are no pockets of heat or flavorless spots.
  3. Heat 2 tbsp of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  4. Sauté shrimp and mushrooms together, moving frequently (especially if you have hot spots on your stove like I do) for about 3 -5 minutes, or until lightly cooked, then set them aside.
  5. Add butter and let it soften. Then add the garlic and cook for about a minute.
  6. Add paprika, thyme, and jerk spice. Stir until fragrant (this was about 30 seconds for me).
  7. Add tomato paste and give everything another stir.
  8. Add the cream, milk, lemon juice and chicken broth.
  9. Bring it to a boil, then turn down to simmer for about 5-7 minutes.
  10. Add shrimp, mushrooms, and parsley and stir until combined (remember: when the shrimp forms a C, it’s cooked to perfection). Add cheese if you’re using it. Stir for about a minute and add salt and pepper if necessary.
  11. Add pasta to the pan and stir.
  12. Turn off the heat and let pasta soak up some of the sauce for about five minutes, and then serve.

This is my kitchen as things were in progress:


Not pictured: bread I used to soak up chicken broth

…a bit daunting, but still 100% doable and definitely worth it.Maybe not great as a quick weeknight meal, but on a weekend it’ll hit the spot.


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