Rustic & Simple Pasta

I'm all about ease when it comes to cooking.  However, that does not mean it lacks taste.  I got the idea for this recipe from Chef, Jamie Oliver on an old Oprah show.  He loves using fresh herbs and other healthy ingredients from his personal garden.  Being I live in the middle of Los Angeles, growing a garden is next to impossible due to lack of space.  However, I've been utilizing my local farmer's market and Trader Joe’s for simple and inexpensive ingredients in these tough economic times.  Choosing just a few fresh ingredients really does make this dish and your pocket book go a long way.

-1 package of wheat pasta (store bought or fresh from your local farmer's market)
-1 basket cherry tomatoes - mixed variety.  Or 2 medium to large tomatoes fresh from your own garden.
-5-6 medium cremini mushrooms or baby portobello. (Optional, for you non-mushroom lovers)
-1-2 fresh garlic gloves, minced
-6-8 medium shrimp (per person) fresh or frozen without shells. (Optional, for you non-seafood folks)
-1-2 leaves fresh basil, torn by hand or chiffonade
-2 Tbsp Olive Oil
-Fresh Parmesan cheese
-Salt and Pepper to taste

Begin by bringing a medium to large pot of water to a boil.  Add salt to the water to personal taste.  Cook pasta as directed on package or until al dente.

While water is heating up and pasta is cooking begin to: 
-Mince your garlic and set aside
-Clean your mushrooms with a damp cloth.  Roughly chop to bite size pieces and set aside
-Rinse your thawed or frozen shrimp (make sure your shrimp are properly cleaned)
-Rinse your cherry tomatoes. Crush by hand into bowl or roughly chop and place tomatoes into a medium bowl.  Sprinkle salt and pepper over the tomatoes, add the basil and mix then set aside.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat:
-Add 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
-Once pan is hot, add minced garlic.  Stir for 1-2 minutes.  Do not let the garlic burn.
-Add chopped mushrooms.  Stir for 3-5 minutes until mushrooms are soft and shrink down.
-Add shrimp and cook 3-4 minutes per side until they pink up.  Do not overcook, or the shrimp becomes rubbery
-Add tomatoes and basil and mix everything in the pan together.  
-Let the juices from the tomatoes simmer and combine all your flavors together.

-Once your pasta is al dente, spoon directly from the pot of pasta (do not rinse pasta under water) into the skillet with your other ingredients and mix.  It's okay to add a little pasta water to your skillet, it adds flavor.  Turn off the heat.  Top with fresh Parmesan cheese and serve hot.  

Total Prep and Cook Time:  No more than 30 minutes total
Serves:  1-8.  Depends on amount of pasta and shrimp you make

Overall, you can add whatever you like to this dish, try asparagus or whatever is fresh and in season.  Sometimes for a twist, I'll squeeze 1 fresh lemon into the tomatoes for a little added flavor.  Also, if you like a bit of spice in your food, sprinkle red pepper flakes during the garlic stage of cooking.  But, remember just a few red peppers go a long way. Using what is in season is key to keeping the costs down and the flavors up.