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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