Baked Pesto Shrimp

This dish is pure baked deliciousness. It’s easy (4 ingredients if you don’t count the ingredient you use to grease the pan) and is done in the time it takes you to say “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” Well nearly, anyway. The point is that this dish rocks my world, and I think it will do the same for you. It’s also pretty versatile. If you aren’t a shrimp eater, scallops would work as would cubes of any kind of firm white fish. I’ve served the dish for special occasions like Valentine’s Day and made it when I’m the only one eating it. It’s that fancy and that simple, all at the same time. Give it a try; you’ll be glad you did.

Soooo tasty!

Baked Pesto Shrimp (adapted from Going Solo in the Kitchen)

3 tablespoons Panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons pesto
1/2 teaspoon Parmesan cheese
5 ounces peeled and deveined shrimp
wee bit o’ butter or non-stick spray

1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees and grease your baking dish. Typically, I use a smidgen of butter and smear it around the dish with a paper towel.

Smidgen of Butter

2. In a roomy bowl, mix together your pesto and 2 tablespoons of your breadcrumbs. It will be sort of crumbly, and that’s okay.
3. Add in your shrimp, and mix together. You want the pesto-breadcrumb mixture to coat around all the shrimp.

4. Put into the baking dish, in a single layer as much as possible. A little overlap is okay, but overall, you want one layer. Top with the remaining tablespoon of Panko and your Parmesan cheese.
5. Slide it into the oven for about 5 – 6 minutes.  When you take it out, give it a minute to cool, or it will scald the top layer of your tongue off, which will prevent good eats in the coming week. Just don’t leave it on top of the warm oven to cool. 🙂

Headed Into the Oven

A note about cooking shrimp: The bottom line is two-fold. Shrimp cook crazy fast, and overcooked shrimp taste crazy bad. You are looking at two indicators when discerning if the  shrimp is cooked or not. The first is color. As shrimp cooks, you’ll see it turn opaque and either a white or pink. You aren’t looking for a super dark or super bright color though. If it’s too bright or dark, chances are that you’ve overcooked it. The second is shape. Most raw shrimp are a loose sort of question mark or barely curved line shape. As they cook, they curl or tighten up. You want to watch for a C shape. The key to a C is that the ends are still kind of far apart. If the ends of the shrimp curl into each other so it’s closer to an O, that’s not a good sign. I’ve read and heard that overcooked shrimp tastes like a pencil eraser. I can promise you that I’ve never taste-tested a pencil eraser, so I cannot confirm that. However, overcooked shrimp are rubbery, chewy, and sort of challenging to eat. You’ll probably know it when you bite into it. Typically when I’m pan- cooking shrimp, I’ll leave them on their first side the longest, and then the flip side never gets more than 2 minutes. They are usually 2/3 – 3/4 of the way done when I flip. I’m hesitant to give you specific times as there are so many factors that can influence time. However, you are probably looking at 4 – 8 minutes, on average, for cooking time. It may take some practice, but don’t be intimidated. You can do it!

I used pesto that I made with this recipe, and I had tablespoon cubes in the freezer so it was super simple to pull out two cubes to defrost while I was at work. I usually keep a bag of frozen shrimp in my freezer also. The shrimp always defrosts while I’m at work, and if I forget, it is a protein that will defrost quickly while I’m prepping other parts of dinner. It just takes a little bit of cold water in a bowl, and presto-changeo – it’s defrosted! This recipe comes together so quickly that it’s a great go-to even if you’ve forgotten to plan ahead or if you’ve had a tough day and want a special meal. Even if you don’t have the recipe in front of you – remember: equal parts Panko and pesto for the mixture plus one tablespoon Panko for the topping and a sprinkle of cheese. It’s that easy.

Who Needs A Plate??

Let’s talk about Panko, people. Panko breadcrumbs are a Japanese-style breadcrumb that is rougher and has more texture than your traditional, run-of-the-mill breadcrumb. It’s not as fine as traditional breadcrumbs so you get more crunch bang for your breadcrumb buck. Because they are a more substantial breadcrumb, items that are coated with Panko hold up better under sauces before going mushy and goopy on you. They won’t keep their full crunch under a heavy sauce or under a large amount of sauce, but they will do quite nicely with a light sauce, a pan fry, an oven bake, or any other preparation where you would use breadcrumbs. Substitute Panko, and you won’t be disappointed. I’ve found Panko on the lower shelf in the breadcrumb aisle at my grocery store as well as near the sushi station. You may also want to check the Asian or international food aisle of your store. Since I’ve made the switch to Panko, I can’t think of a time in the last three years when I’ve used the regular breadcrumbs. They are just that good.

If you want to make Baked Pesto Shrimp for two people, I don’t think you necessarily need to double the whole thing – just add a couple more ounces of shrimp and one more part Panko and pesto plus serve some side dishes. Just my two cents on that. I have made it with scallops as well as a mix of shrimp and scallops. I’ve never made it with the cubes of fish although I believe it will work just as well. You may need to adjust the cooking time a little. Test the fish with a fork to see if it flakes to tell if it is done before you take it out to serve. If you try it with the fish, let me know how it goes for you. And to everyone, happy eating!

Nutritional Information – the whole thing (if you eat it for one, like I do!)
Calories: 393
Fat: 20 g
Carbs: 14. 6 g
Protein: 35. 8 g
Calcium: 23.5%
Iron: 19%

Garlicky Pesto

Truth be told, I’ve only ever made pesto myself twice: once about 5 years ago and tonight. Five years ago I followed a recipe probably from Food Network and I thought it tasted like grass. I was grossed out and decided it was worth it to me to purchase my own from here on out. Here’s the thing, though. Store-bought pesto is kind of expensive. At least I think it is. But buying basil in those cello packages also seems expensive so either way it was costly. But then! Then came the summer of owning a basil plant. This basil plant has grown like nobody’s business. I seriously gave thought to getting a tomato cage for it because the stalks were getting tall and quite leafy. What do you do when you have a ton of basil? Well, you suck it up and make pesto again! So I did. Aside from quite the garlicky punch that might could catch you off guard, I think this one is a winner. Now – as with all cooking, sometimes things don’t quite go as planned so one has to regroup and come back for round two. I’m going to give you the original recipe I used, tell you how I’d modify the next time, and then tell you what I had to do to tone down that garlic. I do love me some garlic, but raw garlic has quite the kick, yes?

Garlicky Pesto

Ingredients – Round 1
2.5 cups of basil leaves – not packed
.5 cup of grated Parmesan cheese – the powdery kind – and feel free to add more, you can never have too much cheese
.5 cup (2 oz) of pine nuts
3 med-lg cloves of garlic – smashed (yes, I know that’s a LOT of raw garlic!)
.5 cup of olive oil

Steps – Round 1
1. Wash and dry basil leaves. Toss into your Robot Culinaire.
2. Add cheese, nuts, and garlic.
3. Start the Robot Culinaire and drizzle in the oil while it processes and blends.
4. Turn off the Robot Culinaire and taste. Watch the edge of the blade, now.

It was at this junction that I realized I’d gotten carried away with the garlic. It was quite pungent and not particularly good eats, to be honest. So I would recommend 2 small to medium or 1 large clove of garlic to start. You can always add more. It is far more difficult to work in the other direction. However – when one has a prolific basil plant it is a little easier.

Ingredients – Round 2 (in addition to above)
1 cup of basil leaves – again, not packed
.5 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
.5 cup walnut pieces
medium pinch of salt

Steps – Round 2
1. Wash and dry basil.
2. Put everything in the Robot Culinaire.
3. Whiz away until it’s all incorporated. Stop once or twice to scrape down the sides and check for chunks.
4. Taste again. Be relieved that the flavors are more balanced.

Cooking for One Caveat
Now – this is kind of a lot of pesto for this single gal – even if I do dearly love it. (It made 22 tbsp!!) So I have portioned it out into an ice cube tray so it can freeze into little tablespoon portions for easy usage at a later date. This is one of those ways that I make the food work for me. If I left the bowl of it in the fridge, it would likely go bad before I used it all. I don’t care for wasting food as it feels a bit like throwing money away. So now I can snag a cube or two to add to salads, pastas, seafood, bread, etc.

The 3 larger cubes are 2 tbsp each. The rest are just 1 tbsp.

Tonight, I mixed two tbsp of the pesto with a diced roma tomato and diced fresh mozzarella, then put it all on top of half a ciabatta roll and put it in the oven to broil while I cooked my salmon patty. Hello! It was so good. Warm, melty a bit, and so many delicious flavors. Plus, when there are other ingredients, that also helps to balance out the garlic quite well. I was quite pleased with it, in the end. I hope you are too! Happy eating!

Nutritional Information – Per 1 tbsp
Calories: 93
Fat: 9 g
Carbs: 1 g
Protein: 2.6 g
Calcium: 7.5%

Deliciously tasty!