This recipe was inspired by a dish my aunt raved about — a bold and flavorful Greek dish called shrimp saganaki. Served as an appetizer, shrimp is sautéed in a pan with tomatoes, olives and feta cheese, then eaten right out of the skillet with the help of some crusty bread to soak up all the sauce. The only thing resembling shrimp saganaki in my dish is the shrimp, tomatoes and feta cheese…and maybe the crispy bread crumbs, but that’s a stretch. The unusual but very delicious combination is what got me. The result is: oh, yum.
Not only is this a casual crowd pleaser but it comes together very easily. Plus it’s filling, comforting, and incorporates just enough vegetables – fresh spinach !! — to feel good about it. And this dish is just another example of how simple honest ingredients highlight how delicious food really is! Easy and tasty!
If you aren’t familiar with Panko breadcrumbs, they are often used in Japanese cooking (think tempura) and are made fresh from specially baked, crustless bread. Like flakes of dried bread, they are larger, crispier, lighter, and more delicate so they coat whatever you are cooking without “packing” it down like regular bread crumbs. Panko makes a wonderful crisp topping for casseroles of any kind — like this one.
Baked Orzo with Shrimp, Tomato and Feta
400 g dried pasta, such as orzo, gemelli or other small noodles
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
500 g shrimp, peeled and deveined, from sustainable sources (in German: Eismeer-Garneln)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 large cloves garlic, minced
100 g baby spinach (about 4 handfuls)
1 x 400 g can diced tomatoes, drained
200 g feta, crumbled
finely grated zest of 1 organic lemon
3 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, divided
3/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs (found at Asian markets) (40 g)
chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, as garnish
1. Preheat oven to 425°F / 210°C.
2. Fill the large pot with cold water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat and add pasta, stirring occasionally to prevent the pasta from sticking. Cook according to packet instructions, until ALMOST al dente. For orzo, plan about 6 minutes. Drain and set aside.
3. In a large non-stick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until the shrimp start to turn a little bit pink (do not cook through), about 2 minutes. Stir in the garlic and after 30 seconds, when fragrant, stir in the spinach and cook, stirring, until it starts to wilt, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat.
NOTE: if you decide to use frozen shrimp, be sure to properly drain any excess water after defrosting.
4. Add the pasta, diced tomato, feta, lemon zest and 2 teaspoons thyme to the shrimp mixture. Toss to combine. Transfer the mixture to a 30cm x 20cm casserole dish.
5. In a small bowl, combine the Panko breadcrumbs with the remaining olive oil and thyme, plus a pinch of salt. Sprinkle evenly over the pasta.
6. Bake the pasta until the breadcrumbs are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Garnish with parsley, serve and enjoy!