Culinary Math

Last year we got four little tarragon plants which we used from time to time throughout the summer. But they had an amazing growth spurt recently and were overflowing their pot. What to do? I needed some inspiration...

About the same time as the tarragon grew so large, we were in Seattle on our way to a wedding. On the day of the wedding, we had ample time to explore Seattle and opted to head directly to Pike Place Market.

Directly, that is, if you don't count our detour to Macrina Bakery for morning sustenance.

It is always frustrating for a foodie to travel to a culinary Mecca with no kitchen to play in. This was the case in Seattle. The hotel was nice, but...

So, when I saw all that glassy-eyed fresh fish, I could appreciate it only visually and then walk on. Such fresh mushrooms - porcini, even! – I could never carry home in good shape. Multi-colored cauliflowers could be no more than a mental snapshot. It was, as I said, so frustrating.

But then we came upon Papparadelle's... a dried pasta shop with dozens of pasta shapes and flavors. Being the aesthete I am, I immediately gravitated to the prettiest ones, and the ones I found most beautiful were the multi-colored orzo pastas. You will be seeing several of them here soon.

After choosing three varieties of orzo, I was about to check out when I saw what looked like small kelp leaves. They were beautiful! They were lemon parsley malfadine. Had to have those, too.

Malfadine are usually long, 3/4-inch wide noodles with a ruffled edge. Not sure how they got their name, but these malfadine from Papparadelle's are small leaflets of strongly lemon-scented noodles colored green by the parsley.

Even thought it was the orzo (orzi?) that first caught my eye, it was these lemon parsley malfadine that inspired today's post... Well, that and the overflowing tarragon plant.

I know tarragon is most often used in poultry preparations and in a Béarnaise sauce for beef. But I think about it most often when I want seafood or fish. And when I saw the malfadine, shrimp came to mind - the beautiful pink of the shrimp with the green of the pasta would be beautiful.

I did the math. Shrimp + Tarragon + Lemon + Malfadine = Perfection! So I made a simplified beurre blanc-style sauce using lots more lemon, then adding tarragon - it was delicious. I hope you think so, too.

Bon appétit!

~ David

Malfadine with Shrimp and Lemon-Tarragon Butter

4 ounces malfadine or other ridged pasta - campanelle or radiatore
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 shallots, peeled and diced
8 ounces large shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons white wine
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons salt and then cook pasta until al dente.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add diced shallots and sauté until soft, but not brown. Add shrimp in one layer and cook for a minute or so until pink on one side. Turn and cook the other side for another minute. Remove shrimp from the pan and set aside.

Add lemon juice, wine, tarragon and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt to the skillet. Cook over medium heat until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Add butter, one tablespoon at at time until melted and creamy.

Return shrimp to the skillet and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add cooked and drained malfadine and stir to coat.

Divide among two heated bowls and top with a generous grinding of black pepper. Serve immediately.

Serves 2. This recipe can be doubled or quadrupled easily.


  1. What a beautiful shape of pasta - looks amazing. Reminds me of a new (to me ) kind I discovered recently called Campanelle! Love those ruffled edges.

  2. I agree, it almost hurts to visit food markets while travelling! Pasta is my second name and I´d love to get my hands on shapes like this one. So pretty!
    Jamie Oliver has a tarragon grape salad made with the whole fresh leaves that sounds so good, here´s a link if you want to look into it: http://jennifersrecipebook.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/jamie-olivers-tarragon-salad/

  3. You've done it again! I am salivating over a dinner recipe at 7:30 in the morning! Lovely shrimp and pasta I hope to try soon. Thanks!

  4. Yum. I'm going to make this dish this week. Have any tarragon to share?

  5. I find that tarragon is a herb that many people tend to avoid. Really not sure why as it's nice in a variety of things, even making your own tarragon vinegar.
    At least you came away from the market with some gorgeous pasta. I really struggle when I'm in a foreign country and I can't buy anything I want at a market. I struggled when we were in New York and San Fran as I wanted to take so much home with me!

  6. Love your dish, David! Tarragon is such an interesting herb, one that I never used to cook with often but now has become one of my favorites. I always pair it with seafood!
    I also enjoyed your photographs from Seattle. I can imagine how hard it must have been for you not being able to cook all that beautiful produce!

  7. Ahu - I love campanelle - it is one of my favorite shapes for holding a good sauce! Perfect for this recipe!

    Kirsten - sorry it had you going so early in the morning - but, on the bright side, it gave you time to shop for the ingredients during the day for dinner!

    Kate - yes! We have plenty of tarragon and would love to share.

    John - I know what you mean - I nearly die every time I am in Franc and Italy and want to bring things home. Funny, too, that you should mention the tarragon vinegar. We set up a batch to steep that same day...

    Magda - I have to wonder... is tarragon used at all in Greek cuisine? It is rare in Italian (only one region, really), never in my memory in German cooking, but used frequently in France.

  8. Another fest for the eyes David! You make every ingredient look so lovely and enticing. I just want to reach in and pluck a prawn (shrimp) right off that plate!
    The markets also look beautiful I had the same problem as you at Adelaide Central Market - I wanted to take home everything!

  9. This looks beautiful - I have always been afraid of beurre blancs - that they have too much butter. This is a nice way to moderate that. Love the tarragon, too!

  10. Thanks, Anna! As we eat with our eyes, I like to make sure the ingredients look good, too. Who would want to cook with bruised fruits of old seafood?

    Anonymous - beurre blancs usually have much too much butter for my diet. Mine isn't as luscious, for sure, but it won't kill you either!


Thank you for taking the time to leave me a note - I really appreciate hearing from you and welcome any ideas you may have for future posts, too. Happy Cooking!

If you would like to receive follow-up comments, simply click the "Subscribe by E-mail" link to the right of the "Publish" and "Preview" buttons.