Saffron pasta with shrimp and broccoli
#100daysofcooking, Recipes

Day 14: Don’t fear the saffron

Shrimp and Saffron Pasta

Saffron is one of those things that I’ve been somewhat aware of but — despite having some on hand — have never used. It is, of course, the most expensive spice on Earth so one feels the need to cook something worthy of it.

But there’s nothing a clean-out-the-cupboards, 100-day challenge (also the Lululemon shopping bag encouragement, “Do one thing a day that scares you”) to overcome my fear of using this fruit of a flower.

To be true, it is not fruit. Here is a better description, cribbed from this Serious Eats article: Saffron comes from the flower of the Crocus sativus, which bloom once a year, producing up to four flowers, each with three vivid crimson stamens which are collected by hand.

Needless to say, those very small numbers — once a year, four flowers, three stamens — are what makes the cost add up.

Saffron is the most expensive spice on Earth.
Saffron is the most expensive spice on Earth.

As mentioned, I have two small packages: one was part of the Cumali Baba spice package from Istanbul, the other is a one-gram jar of Sierra Spanish Saffron, retail value of about $15, which was in a Christmas stocking.

Today, we opted for a simple pasta with shrimp and a saffron cream sauce. It was good, but not great – the cream sauce turned out runnier than I would have expected (possibly the result of me substituting half-and-half for the cream) — but the taste was good, and it was easy and quick to make.

The original recipe, from The Kitchen Gidget blog , used asparagus and linguine. I substituted broccoli and farfalle.

Kitchen castoff used


This is how we did it


  • ½ lb farfalle (I used about half of a 450g box of Barilla Farfalle)
  • 1 cup broccoli, cut into small florets
  • 1 – 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lb shrimp (if using frozen, thaw thoroughly in cold water, then pat dry before cooking)
  • 1 -2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ cup white wine
  • ¼ cup (or a bit less) warmed chicken stock
  • saffron threads, crush (recipe says “a pinch,” in retrospect I would say about 1 tsp)
  • ½ cup cream
  • 2 tbsp butter


Add the saffron to the warm chicken stock and set aside, at least 15 minutes, but up to an hour. This allows the flavour (and colour) to bloom.

Cook the pasta. When you have about 4 – 5 minutes remaining, add the broccoli to the water and let them both finish cooking together. Drain.

In a saute pan, heat the oil then cook the shrimp and garlic together until the shrimp are pink and cooked through.

In a small saucepan, simmer the wine until it has reduced by half. (Don’t go short on the reduction process – maybe this wasanother reason why my sauce was runnier than I would have liked). Add the cream and stock-with-saffron, and bring back to a simmer. Then whisk in the butter.

Toss the pasta, broccoli and shrimp and the sauce together and enjoy.

Wondering what the “Kitchen Castoff” reference is all about? Here’s the explainer describing my 100 day project

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