My Favorite Seafood Pasta

November 14, 2010

Had dinner at Torrisi Italian Specialties the other night. Everything was wonderful – the famous garlic bread, the three bean salad with shredded dried scallops, the potato gnocchi and the juicy pork – but it was the spaghetti with seafood that really knocked my socks off. It was rich, slick, very sexy.

With the first bite I was suddenly in Venice, cooking again with Enrica Rocca in her lovely kitchen, making an aromatic (and bright orange) stock out of shrimp heads. I loved her spaghetti allo scoglio, the most intensely flavorful seafood pasta I’ve ever tasted.

The secret to this dish is simple: You finish cooking the pasta in the aromatic seafood broth until the pasta becomes one with the sauce. This is not spaghetti with sauce on top; it is spaghetti with sauce inside each strand. The seafood on top is lovely and delicious, but here it is just a garnish.

Spaghetti allo Scoglio

¾ pounds medium shrimp with heads
* 1 medium onion, sliced
* 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
* a handful of chopped parsley
* 1 lb mussels, scrubbed
* 1 lb spaghetti
* 2 cloves garlic, smashed or minced
* about 20 cherry tomatoea, halved
* 1 small dried hot chile,
* 1 pound squid, cleaned, and cut into rings (tentacles left whole)
* white wine
* olive oil
* salt and pepper to taste

Remove the heads from the shrimp. Put them into a pot with the carrot, onion, parsley and a glug of olive oil and cook, covered, over medium-low heat, stirring lazily every once in a while for about 15 minutes. Then add the shrimp shells, ¾ cups of white wine and 4 cups of water and simmer very gently for about an hour and a half to make an intense stock (it will turn bright orange from the fat in the shrimp heads). Strain the liquid into a bowl and set aside.

Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and the garlic in a deep heavy skillet. When the garlic is fragrant add the mussels and 3/4 cup white wine, cover the pan and cook until most of the mussels have gaped open. This should only take a couple of minutes. Snatch the mussels out as they open, setting them in a colander set over the stock bowl. Continue to cook for about 5 minutes; discard any mussels that refuse to open.

Meanwhile, cook spaghetti in well-salted boiling water until barely al dente, about 6 minutes. Drain in a colander.

Put 1 cup of stock, cherry tomatoes, chile and some more chopped parsley in the skillet and simmer a few minutes until the tomatoes get soft. Stir in the spaghetti and simmer until the pasta has inhaled all the liquid (about 3 minutes), adding more stock as needed to make the pasta perfectly al dente. Add the squid and shrimp, stirring for about one minute or just until the shrimp turn rosy and the squid loses its translucence. Stir in the mussels and a bit more parsley and serve to 4 very happy people.

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  • Melly Testa says:

    Ruth, the other day I had an idea and it involved your future, pretty presumptuous, huh? I am sorry about that part of it, but figured I might just tell you anyway and see if it simmers or percolates for you. I daydreamed that you created a Good Food like radio show for the East Coast. I mean you know everyone, you have good foodie ideas and I think NYC needs a food focused radio program. I mean california isn’t the only place with great framers markets, food trucks, food happenings and award winning food writers.
    When Evan Kleiman came to NY and Brooklyn and talked about Baked! I went! I fell in love with their take on a cream filled cookie (AKA Oreo). And I have to say, I want to know more! I immediately wanted Evan to come back and do it again.
    And well. There you have it. My crazy idea for you.

  • Ruth Reichl says:

    Thanks Melly. You are welcome to think up ideas for me any day.
    I love radio, and I love Evan’s show, and I agree with you that New York could use one just like it. But I’ve got a different idea for a national food show, and I’ve been working on it with my producer from WGBH. I really hope it happens, because there’s nothing like it on the air now, and it’s something that I really want to listen in on. So keep your fingers crossed.

  • Ruth–I really hope that you do a radio show, because you have such a compelling voice. Not that I don’t enjoy watching you speak, but on the radio you have a remarkable ability to draw listeners in, in such an intimate way. Whenever I hear that you are going to be interviewed, I drop everything I’m doing that takes me away from my radio.

  • Melanie says:

    I’m craving a seafood pasta for dinner tonight and have some homemade crab stock to use up, but all I’ve got in the house for seafood is frozen shrimp and langoustines (and salmon, but that doesn’t go). I’ll miss the mussels, but I think it will work anyway! Yummmm!

  • Elliott says:

    Great! I just finished it last night and the result was unexpected, My wife loves it. She got surprised. Yeah. I am going to try this for my friends too. Nice. Thanks for your guide.