“Occhi Rossi” – Thick Spaghetti with Red Eye Gravy, Gulf Shrimp, Country Ham, and Fried Okra

Recipe courtesy of Chef Yury Krasilovsky.

Whether it’s in traditional kugels at Brooklyn diners, or simple bowls of spaghetti and meatballs all over the country, pasta has long been a staple on the diner scene. This dish from Barilla Chef Yury Krasilovsky brings together the diner classic coffee-infused “red eye” gravy, made with traditional country ham, and elevates it with head-on shrimp and cornmeal-battered okra. Barilla Thick Spaghetti soaks up the sauce and provides an Italian “al dente” accent.

6 pounds Barilla Thick Spaghetti
1 1/2 pounds thinly sliced country ham
3 pounds okra pods, sliced in thirds
3 cups cornmeal
salt and pepper
12 1/2 ounces butter
6 1/4 cups black coffee
3 cups buttermilk
3 cups grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
50 head-on gulf shrimp, shelled
  1. Cook the Barilla pasta for half the time indicated on the package.  Drain pasta and drizzle with some olive oil to prevent from sticking.  Place pasta flat on sheet trays or hotel pans and cool in a blast chiller. Alternatively, cool it down in a walk-in cooler.  Store in zip lock bags or sealed plastic container; refrigerate and use within several hours.
  2. For each serving, to order:  Heat 1/2 tablespoon butter in a skillet and fry 1 ounce ham until it’s crispy.  Remove the ham, leaving in the fat.  Add 1/4 cup coffee and 2 tablespoons water, scraping up the bits in the pan.  Simmer to reduce slightly and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Toss 2 tablespoons buttermilk with 2 ounces okra, then coat it in 2 tablespoons cornmeal.  Deep-fry until crisp. Season with salt.
  4. In another skillet, melt 1/2 tablespoon butter and season 2 shrimp with salt and pepper.  Sear them in the pan until just cooked through.
  5. Fold 2 tablespoons cheese into the pasta and plate it.  Set the shrimp on top, garnished with the okra and ham.