Chilli Prawn Pasta

As is usual in London at the moment, the public transport system has been partially shut down for weekend maintenance works, and today most of my avenues for escape from the parish are shut, unless I want to spend an hour on an omnibus.

So, it’s off to the Very Expensive Supermarket on the corner. These aren’t just prawns, they’re packed in vast amounts of plastic in a special luxury protective atmosphere prawns. This isn’t just basil, this is basil whose plastic wrapping weighs more than the contents. You know the drill.

That said, the basil is decent. Too much supermarket basil is either tasteless, or tasteless and bitter. This stuff, unwrapped and washed, is already smelling pretty darned fine. And the prawns are alright, too. However, if you can get fresh whole prawns, with their shells and legs and feelers and heads and guts, then there’s more interesting things you can do. (You can do this recipe with frozen raw prawns, but not dried basil.)

To serve two, I’m using:

  • 300g prawns
  • 4 fat cloves of garlic (but you could use more)
  • a teaspoon of minced chillis from the jar (substitute fresh, but not dried)
  • a bunch of fresh basil
  • a 450g tin of chopped tomatoes, drained (or two small fresh tomatoes, chopped and gutted, no need to peel)

Firstly, crush the garlic, and mix with the prawns and chilli in a bowl. Add about a tablespoon of olive oil, and mix well. I happened to have half a lemon in the fridge (looking a bit mummified) so put about a tablespoon of lemon juice into the mix as well, but only ‘cos it happened to be there. Let that sit at room temperature whilst you do the washing up, read the paper, and have a cup of tea. You could also cover the bowl, and leave in the fridge for half a day. Always remember, that if you’re marinating in the fridge, it will take longer, ‘cos it’s cold.

Once you start cooking, this is very quick, so be prepared. Get the pasta started in one pot, and then, when the pasta has about five minutes to go, get a frypan very hot indeed, and add the prawns.

(Victory from Jaws of Defeat: Now at this point, I had forgotten how wet cryogenic prawns are, and stared aghast as they oozed water into the pan. Dang. They weren’t gonna fry, they were gonna boil. If this happens to you, don’t panic, just grab the slotted spoon rescue the prawns and park them in a bowl, whilst the liquid in the pan reduces. Once that happened, I returned the prawns, and carried on.)

Once the prawns have gone pink, add the tomatoes and basil, and turn off the heat. I had some cream handy, so added about 50mL. You don’t want to overcook the prawns, or they’ll turn into little rubbery things that are only good as tap washers.

By this time the pasta will be done, so drain it and add it to the prawns, stir, season, and serve.

Pass the Parmesan.


  • I had a lemon handy, so I added some lemon juice to the marinade
  • if you have some cream handy, then add a good glug of the stuff just after the toms, crème fraîche even better
  • some whole black olives would be good, add these with the prawns
  • a glug of nice white wine will improve things, and you may even want to put a splash in the dish after the prawns are done
  • instead of basil, you could use oregano, or coriander leaves, assuming your guests don’t think coriander is the Devil’s pubic hair
  • you could replace the prawns with a skinned, and chopped chicken breast or two

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