Gamberi alla Busara. This is a typical Venetian dish that I have often eaten in the little restaurants that surround the famous Rialto fish market. It is always cooked with whole prawns with their shells and heads left on. The joy is in eating them with your hands and pulling out the delectable flesh of the prawns.
Prawns in Tomato Sauce, Venetian style
Serve with plenty of crusty bread to mop up the tomato sauce, and if you can find it, a glass or two of a chilled dry Malvasia Bianca, ideally from Veneto.
100ml olive oil, plus extra to serve
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 shallots, finely chopped
2 tbsp tomato paste
3 large ripe plum tomatoes, peeled and chopped
12-15 baby plum tomatoes, depending on their size
Pinch chilli flakes
Pinch saffron strands
1 tsp sea salt
250ml white wine
24 large king or tiger prawns, whole with heads on but de-veined
A handful of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Crusty bread, to serve
Pour 3⁄4 of the olive oil into a deep frying pan and place over medium heat. Add the garlic and shallots. When they are turning translucent and soft, stir in the tomato paste, the chopped plum and baby tomatoes, chilli flakes, saffron and 1⁄2 teaspoon of salt.
Cook for 10 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent it from sticking, then add the wine and cook for a further 2-3 minutes. Add remaining salt and bring just to the boil, stir and then turn down the heat and let the sauce simmer and reduce for
25 minutes. Meanwhile, pour the remaining olive oil into another frying pan or wok and set over a high heat. When the pan is sizzling, fry the prawns for a minute or so on either side, then quickly remove from the pan. With the tomato sauce still bubbling, add the prawns to the sauce, shell and all. Coat them well, then season with freshly- ground black pepper.
Cook for a further 2 minutes then turn off the heat, being careful not to overcook the prawns. Drizzle over a little more olive oil, sprinkle with the parsley and serve with the crusty bread and extra olive oil on the side.