They key to this dish wasn’t as much as the garlic as it was the shrimp flavor from the head and the shells. I spent some time shelling and deveining a pound of shrimps, and my arm hurt from pressing them to get the juice out, but all the work was worth it. I used rigatoni pasta but they turned out to be too big for the small pieces of shrimps. When you try this, use penne instead. You can also substitute the vermouth with white wine. I just didn’t want to waste a perfectly good and pricey Chateauneuf-du-Pape white–we needed another bottle of it after this very garlicky and very shrimpy pasta was done.
1 pound large shrimps, peeled, deveined, tails removed, cut into 3 pieces; heads, tails and shells reserved
1 medium-sized head of garlic, peeled, smashed, sliced
1 box of penne, cooked al dente, saving some of the pasta water
1 can of clam juice
1/2 cup dry vermouth
2 tsps flour
half a bunch of parsley, finely chopped
a small knob of butter
lemon wedges, plus some of its juice
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1. Marinate shrimps. In a large glass bowl, combine shrimp meat and a third of the garlic with some olive oil and a dash of salt. Set aside while you do steps 2 and 3.
2. In a large skillet, heat some oil. Add another third of the garlic with the shrimp heads, tails and shells. Cook and toss until garlic is light brown, about 8 minutes. Add clam juice and vermouth and let it simmer. Using the back of a large spoon, smash the heads so that the fat comes out.
3. When half of the liquid has evaporated, turn off the heat and remove the garlic and shells using a slotted spoon and transfer to a mortar and pestle in batches. Save the liquid from the skillet and transfer to another large bowl. Continue to get the remaining juice out of the heads and shells by pounding them with the pestle and transferring the juice back to the bowl. Discard shells when done.
4. Turn the heat back on and add a little oil. Sauté the remaining garlic. Add the shrimp-flavored liquid and let it simmer until somewhat reduced. Then add the marinated shrimp and toss for about 2 minutes. Drop in the butter, flour and red pepper flakes and mix until butter is melted. Add salt and lemon juice to taste. Add pasta. If it gets too thick, add a drop or two of the pasta water. Turn off the heat and mix in the parsley.