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Superstitious Pasta with Shrimp

This July, I visited Lorenza in Rome. Early one morning, we set off to the oldest fishmonger in Ostiense: a neighborhood known for its street art and old industrial buildings. We were on a mission to stock up for that evening’s seafood dinner. It was a hot summer day filled with urban noise and a humid breeze from the Thyrrhenian Sea.  The fish monger shop was straight out of a story book. It clearly hadn’t aged well and there were no windows inside. Grey wall tiles and a wet faux-marble floor made it look like a crime scene from one of Hitchcock’s movies. Opposite the door was a stand of fresh fish and seafood buried in pieces of ice, neatly arranged in flat white plastic boxes. In the back left corner, there was a table with a one-meter-long tuna sliced open. A red chunk of meat sat next to a razor-sharp steel knife. On the right side of the fish stand was a fridge stocked with mussels and oysters packed in green nets. Just next to it was an old-fashioned stand for a cashier. As we arrived, we came across a fish seller in his fifties wearing a white apron stained with fish blood. The smell of fish was overpowering.  Lorenza asked one of the fishmongers for 20 shrimp. He looked at us confused, fumbled and said:  “Shrimp are like roses. You can’t buy an even number because it brings bad luck. You always have to ask for an odd number!” Not wanting to bring ourselves bad luck, we took 21 shrimp and headed home to prepare a simple pasta making sure that no black cat crossed our path.




Serves 4

Superstitious pasta with shrimp

Superstitious pasta recipe is a result of an encounter with a superstitious fish monger in Roma.

10 minPrep Time

30 minCook Time

40 minTotal Time

Save RecipeSave Recipe


  • 500 g fresh pasta (paccheri)
  • 21 tiger shrimp, washed
  • 4 peeled tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • An abundance of olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Parsley (optional)


  1. Separate shrimp heads from the remaining body.
  2. Heat olive oil in a skillet and fry peeled garlic cloves for about 10 seconds.
  3. Add chopped tomatoes and fry for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the shrimp heads and mash them with a fork or a wooden spatula to get out the flavour. Cover with a lid and simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes. Afterwards, discard the heads.
  5. Add the remaining shrimp parts and simmer for another 10 minutes. Mix in with boiled pasta and serve immediately.


Note: an Italian wouldn’t put cheese over seafood. Don’t even try to add any parmigiano to this dish. It brings bad luck.

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