Shrimp Niçoise Pasta

Verdict: A wonderful and easy to make pasta dish that sets itself apart from the rest. The licorice flavoured liqueur compliments the tomato sauce and shrimp, lending depth and a subtle sweetness to the dish.

I planned to write about our Meatless Monday recipes today but my coworkers said they would appreciate some meal ideas for Valentine’s Day. I’m not crazy about celebrating it but I understand if people want to spend this day with someone special and perhaps impress them with a home cooked meal. I went through my recipe trove in search of a recipe with a definitive flair, a certain je ne sais quoi.

I found a pasta dish that is pleasantly different, easy to make,  yet gives the impression that you slaved away in the kitchen. Shrimp Niçoise (French pronunciation: [niˈswaz]) pasta borrows ingredients from the traditional Niçoise salad which consists of various vegetables topped with seafood and finished with Niçoise Cailletier olives.

The shrimp is succulent, the pasta sauce full bodied with the je ne said quoi quality from the licorice flavoured liqueur. You can try using Sambuca, Absinthe or Perdon Ricard for the liqueur. It’ll be between you and I how simple it is to prepare.

A key step added to this recipe was using sea salt to refresh the shrimp before cooking. The salt is rinsed off with cold water and the shrimp is patted dry before sauteeing in the garlic butter. I learned this from a Vietnamese cookbook and have noticed the step refreshes the shrimp by removing the ocean smells and making the meat more tender.

Other Valentine’s Meal Ideas

Bonus: They’re all gluten free recipes.

  • Thai Green Curry with Chicken and Broccoli – exotic, super simple and quick to prepare. Lots of flavour pay off here.
  • Balsamic Foil Packed Chicken – take a quick trip to the Asian aisle of your grocery store for sweet soya sauce and prepare this unique and delicious dish. This could be your new chicken and rice recipe for life.
  • Steak Ssam Lettuce Wraps – marinade flank or skirt steak in apple juice, grill them up and serve with rice, kimchi and the ginger-scallion mixture, all wrapped in a crisp lettuce leaf. You will impress the pants off anyone who eats the dish.


Shrimp Niçoise Pasta

Adapted from Judie Glick & Fiona McLeod’s Granville Island Market Cookbook, 1985

Note: You may try substituting ¼ teaspoon of star anise seeds for the alcohol as it will lend a good amount of licorice flavour.

Serves: 4   | Prep: 15 minutes   | Cook: 40 minutes


  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 – 28oz can whole plum tomatoes, chopped (reserve liquid)
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoon fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 – 2 teaspoon licorice flavoured liqueur such as Pernod, Absinthe, or Sambuca
  • 6 – 12 black olives, pitted and halved
  • ¾ lb [350 g] dried penne or rotini
  • 2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 24 large prawns or shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1. Over medium heat, melt butter and olive oil in large pot. Add onions and sautee until golden. Add garlic and sautee until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add chopped tomatoes, thyme, licorice liqueur and salt and pepper. Increase heat to HIGH, bring mixture to a boil and reduce the liquid so that it barely appears above the solids, stir constantly for about 10 minutes. Add reserved tomato liquid, reduce heat to LOW, and simmer for 30 minutes.

2. Add olives during last 10 minutes of simmering.

3. Cook penne or rotini in boiling salted water, al dente (8 – 10 minutes).

Prep Shrimp: About ten minutes before cooking, place shrimp in a colander or sieve and sprinkle with 2 teaspoon of sea salt. Let them rest for 5 minutes. Rinse with cold water and let them drain. You may need to blot them with paper towels to dry them completely before cooking.

4. Over medium heat, melt butter in skillet and add garlic. Sautee for about 2 minutes, until they’re fragrant. Add shrimp and sautee for 5 – 7 minutes until shrimp are pink and cooked through. Add shrimp and pan juices to the simmered sauce, allowing the flavours to marry for a few minutes before serving over hot pasta.



5 thoughts on “Shrimp Niçoise Pasta”

    1. Hi Linh,
      It’s FoodGawker from Flickr 🙂 I love this recipe. That pasta looks divine. I’m not so good at cooking but I’d love to try this. I was wondering if I can omit the liqueur or maybe substitute something non-alcoholic? Thanks for sharing the recipe!

      1. Hey FoodGawker! You can try substituting the liquor for 1/4 teaspoon of anise seeds or ground star anise for the licorice flavour.

        I found anise seeds at a small Middle Eastern Market while star anise can be found at most Asian supermarkets. Try the international aisle of your supermarket to start.

        If you can’t find those spices, try 1/2 teaspoon of fennel in its place as fennel, along with licorice and tarragon are the flavour notes in anise.

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