The madcap comedy starring Steve Martin and Michael Caine was the box office winner the weekend of December 16, 1988, earning almost $4 million in one weekend. In this recipe for Gamberoni con Salsa Vigliacca, Vigliacca means scoundrel which in the case of the sauce means that it’s spiced with chile peppers. This dish has been served at Trattoria Garga since it opened in 1979. They say its good on everything from pasta to meat loaf. It was great on pasta but even if I ate meat, I don’t think I’d put spicy tomato sauce with shrimp on meatloaf.
Gamberoni con Salsa Vigliacca
8 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
3 ripe medium tomatoes,cored and quartered
3–4 Italian whole dried red chiles, crushed, or 1/4–1/2 tsp. dried red pepper flakes
30 large fresh or thawed frozen heads-on shrimp (about 1 1/2 lbs.), peeled, head and tail shells intact
2 tbsp. cognac
Leaves from 2 sprigs parsley, chopped
1. Heat 4 tbsp. of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until golden, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and chiles, season to taste with salt, and cook, crushing pieces of tomato with the back of the spoon and stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens, 8–10 minutes. Set sauce aside.
2. Heat 2 tbsp. of the oil in another large skillet over high heat. Add half the shrimp in a single layer and cook, turning once, until cooked halfway through, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer shrimp to a plate and set aside.
Repeat process with the remaining 2 tbsp. oil and shrimp.
3. Return same skillet to medium-high heat. Carefully add cognac to skillet and cook, gently shaking skillet over heat, until alcohol evaporates, about 30 seconds. Add reserved tomato sauce and shrimp and cook, stirring occasionally, until shrimp are completely cooked through, 3-4 minutes.
4. Divide shrimp and sauce between 6 medium plates, spooning sauce over and around shrimp, then garnish each plate with parsley.