Pasta

Crab Gravy with Spaghetti

Crab gravy, crab sauce, crabs and spaghetti, crabs and macaroni…..no matter what you call it, we can all agree, it’s delicious.

I had a craving to make this today and my wonderful husband happily went to the market this morning to find me crabs. I was so happy he came home with them because we don’t have a seafood place close by so we had to hope the Italian market had them in today.

This isn’t something I make often. In fact, this is only the second time in my 25 years of cooking that I have. It’s probably more like 30 years, but who’s counting. I figured I’d make it like I make my meat sauce, so it was a kind of make-it-up-as-I-go type of recipe. I will try to be as accurate as possible with the ingredients and process.

Here we go.

Ingredients:

  • 6 blue crabs, uncooked
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 of a large onion, chopped
  • olive oil
  • red pepper flakes
  • 1 8oz can of tomato paste
  • white wine
  • 2 cans crushed tomatoes
  • fresh basil leaves, chopped or chiffonade
  • kosher salt to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 lb of spaghetti or long pasta of your choice

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In a large, heavy pot, heat about 1/4 cup of olive oil and add 3 cloves of minced garlic and, if you wish, some red pepper flakes. We like it spicy. Get that going a bit and be careful to not burn the garlic. Once fragrant, add about half of the crabs until they turn red, flip and cook until red on the other side. Season with some salt while they cook. Remove from the pot and add the remainder. When they are cooked, remove and set aside Do not let anyone eat them! They WILL try.

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If your garlic burned, like mine did, toss it. Burnt garlic will ruin your sauce. Begin with some fresh oil and heat it up. Add your chopped onion, the remaining minced garlic, more red pepper flakes and begin to saute until soft. Add some salt while you saute. I like to salt every layer of my dishes because salt makes everything better. Once soft, add the can of tomato paste and mix in.

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Add about 1/4 cup of the wine to the tomato paste and stir well. Cook down for about 5 minutes.

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To the tomato paste mixture, carefully pour in the two cans of crushed tomatoes. You will want to add some water to thin it out so fill each can about a quarter of the way full, stir to combine leftover tomatoes and pour into the pot. Add about another 1/4 cup of wine, season with salt and black pepper and add the basil. Stir and bring to a boil for about three minutes. Lower heat to simmering and carefully return the cooked crabs to the pot. Cover, lid slightly ajar, and cook, stirring frequently, for about two hours. If you notice the sauce is becoming too thick, add more water and fully cover with the lid until it thins out a bit. You don’t want it like ketchup but you don’t want it like soup either.

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When the gravy/sauce is almost done cooking, you will want to cook your pasta according to package directions. Do not forget to salt your pasta water! There is nothing worse than unsalted, bland pasta to ruin all of your efforts. ūüôā

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Remove crabs from the pot and put on a plate. Drain pasta and place into a bowl and cover generously, or not so generously, with the sauce.

Serve, add some grated Locatelli cheese if you want…who cares what anyone says, and enjoy!

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Mussels in White Wine and Garlic Sauce

The first time I made this dish, I put so much wine, that’s all it tasted like. So, I got my husband on board to help me and we managed to get it pretty much right. It’s not an exact science, like all recipes like this. It’s more of what you like. How much garlic, to or¬†to not¬†add red pepper flakes. That kind of thing. Adjust to your preference.

Ingredients:

  • 1 2lb bag farm-raised mussels
  • 3 to 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 tsp parsley flakes
  • 1/2 cup of wine, approximately

1. First thing you need to do is clean the mussels. The mussels I buy are already de-bearded, but I do go through them and make sure there is no residual beard lingering anywhere. If there is, take a small paring knife and and scrape it off. Rinse several times and scrub them thoroughly. Discard any that are open. Place in a bowl with ice and refrigerate until you are ready to put them in the pan.

2. Heat a large pan and add the olive oil and butter. When that is hot, add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until a light golden brown.

3. Add the wine. Pouring slowly and carefully. Add parsley flakes.

4. Add the mussels, including the ice. Cover the pan and let simmer until they all open. This takes about five minutes or so. Just keep checking. As soon as they are open, you want to get them off of the heat. Nothing worse than a chewy mussel.

5. Serve with spaghetti or linguine and, most importantly, a very large loaf of bread for sopping up all of that incredibly delicious sauce. It’s the best part.


Spaghetti Carbonara

I know this is not exactly health food, but, it is good food! I had it in Italy and wanted to try it ever since we returned home.¬† I found some techniques here and there and came up with this way of making it. Enjoy it and all its lovely fat it provides. After all, winter is coming. And, do not fear the raw eggs! It’s okay.

About 4 servings

  • 4 ounces of pancetta (cured Italian bacon), diced
  • 1 lb of spaghetti
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 cup grated pecorino romano cheese
  • 4 egg yolks, plus 1 whole egg, beaten
  • black pepper

Heat a large pot to boiling. Add a small amount of salt and begin to cook your spaghetti.

In a large saute pan heat olive oil. Enough to just coat the pan. When hot, add diced pancetta and cook until crisp. Not too crisp though. Just enough to have a little crunchy exterior and soft interior. About 15 minutes over medium-high heat.

Once it is done, drain off the fat. I did this because I thought there was enough fat already. Let’s save a few grams, shall we? I must’ve drained off a quarter cup. But this step is entirely up to you. Let it cool down for a few minutes.

While that is cooking, beat the four yolks and whole egg together in a bowl until well blended. 

Mix in cheese and stir together very well, until completely incorporated. Season with freshly ground black pepper, to taste.

Add the egg and cheese mixture to the pan with the pancetta and mix well. I added a couple spoonfuls of the cooking water to loosen it up.

At this point, the pasta should be finished cooking. When draining, do not drain it super dry. Leave some water so the sauce loosens a bit to coat the pasta. I actually pulled most of it out with my tongs. You may also want to keep some of the pasta water in case the sauce is too thick.  You would add this a little at a time until you reach the desired consistency.

Once the pasta is drained, pour it into the pan with the sauce, mix well. Sprinkle some extra cheese on top if desired.

Serve immediately.


Spaghetti with White Clam Sauce (Spaghetti con Vongole)

This is one of my daughter’s favorite meals. “Mom. Are we having clams and spaghetti tonight?” I hear it all the time. She really does love it and ate A LOT of it in Italy. And man, was it good there. Something about their incredible olive oil. Totally changes the taste of the entire dish. So, always buy the best olive oil you can afford. It is worth it.

You can take this up a notch and use fresh clams of course. I do prefer the minced clams though. I’m not a big fan of large clams, and it’s just so much easier. Again, buy a good quality canned clam and juice.

  • 1 pound of spaghetti or linguine
  • 2 jars of Cento clam juice
  • 1 can of Cento minced clams, with their juice
  • 1/4 cup of white wine (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons salted butter
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced fine
  • 1 teaspoon, or to taste, of hot red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon of minced, dried parsley
  • pinch of salt plus more to salt the water for cooking the pasta
  • a few grindings of black pepper

Fill a large pot with water. Turn heat to high. When reaches boiling point, salt liberally and add pasta. Cook to al dente.

While you’re waiting for the water to boil and pasta to cook, get a small saucepan and heat the olive oil and butter.

Add the garlic, red pepper and parsley. Cook to light golden. Do not burn the garlic. I cannot stress that enough. It will ruin the dish.

Lower the heat, add the clams with their juice, the clam juice, and wine. Turn heat up a bit to bring to a constant simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes.

Once pasta is done, drain and place in a serving bowl. Pour clam sauce over top and serve immediately.


Pesto Sauce

Looking at my sink, full of basil, I can not think of anything better to make than some fresh pesto.  It is so simple to make, yet so delicious.  Make extra and freeze it for future use.

Serves 6

This pesto is made in the food processor for this first part:

  • 2 cups of freshly picked basil leaves, tightly packed
  • 3 Tbsp. pine (pignola) nuts
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped fine before putting in processor
  • Salt

For completion by hand:

  • 1/2 freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
  • 3 Tbsp. butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 1/2 pounds pasta, such a spaghetti or linguine, cooked al dente.

Briefly soak and wash basil in cold water, pat or spin dry well.

Put the basil, garlic, pine nut, olive oil and a good pinch of salt in the food processor bowl, and process to a uniform, creamy consistency.

Transfer to a bowl and mix in the grated cheese by hand.  When the cheese in mixed in well, mix in the softened butter, distributing it evenly in the sauce.

When spooning the pesto over the pasta, dilute it slightly with a little of the pasta cooking water; about one or two tablespoons.

If you make extra to freeze, prepare up until the cheese and butter would be added.



Gravy (Tomato and Meat Sauce for Pasta)

I know there are a lot of different terms for this. I call it gravy. Always have. Always will. It’s from growing up in an Italian household from the Northeastern part of the United States. So, call it what you will; tomato sauce, spaghetti sauce, meat sauce or gravy. But, whatever you call it, it’s a good foodgasm.

So…..where to start? First you need to figure out what meat you are making the gravy with. No meat = no gravy, pretty much.

Normally, I use 3 lbs of ground meat mix (beef, pork and veal) and make meatballs with that. They need to be pre-cooked FIRST. Do not attempt to put them in raw, they will not cook and it’s just gross.

I also put in 1 lb of hot sausage, cooked and cut into links and usually some type of pork. Ribs normally, but I have also used a boneless hunk of pork. Today, I am actually using a piece of beef for a change. Either way, cook it first. I bake the pork in the oven with the sausage at 350¬į for a good hour, turning it once.¬† You want a nice, crisp crust on the pork.¬† Please season it first.

Like I said, it’s up to you. Just meatballs are fine. You need some meat to call it gravy. If not, it’s just tomato sauce.

Once all of that is prepared, you can start the gravy.  For it you will need:

  • 3 cans of crushed tomatoes (I use Tuttorosso in the green can)
  • olive oil
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped fine
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 6 oz. can of tomato paste
  • red wine
  • salt
  • pepper, ground fresh
  • pinch of sugar
  • freshly chopped basil
  • freshly chopped parsley

In a large stock pot, saute garlic, onion and red pepper flakes for about three minutes, stirring so garlic does not burn.

Add tomato paste and stir well.  Add about a 1/4 cup red wine to it and mix well. Season with salt and pepper.  Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the three cans of crushed tomatoes, stir well to incorporate with paste mixture.  Fill one of the cans with water and add it to the sauce.  Season with about a teaspoon of salt, a few grindings of pepper and a pinch of sugar.  Stir again.  Bring to a slow boil.  Add another 1/4 cup of wine or more to the sauce. 

Add all of the meat now and lower heat to a simmer.  Cover the pot, leaving the lid askew, so the sauce thickens.

Check and stir every 30 minutes and cook for at least five hours.¬† Taste every now and then, as well, for seasoning and to see if it’s getting “done.”¬† You’ll need a loaf of Italian bread to do this.¬† It’s a must.

Just kidding. But it is a good way to taste it.

When it’s almost done, add some freshly chopped basil and parsley.

When it’s done, turn off heat.¬† Spoon over a steaming dish of pasta of your choice or just dive in with some bread and go at it.


Penne with Asparagus

Yeah, I’m on an asparagus kick today.¬† I feel like I’m on Iron Chef and it’s the secret ingredient.¬† What can I say?¬† Beautiful, pencil-thin asparagus are plentiful right now, and I can’t resist.¬† Allez Cuisine?

  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flake
  • 2-3 dashes of hot sauce
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 lb. asparagus, cut into 1 1/2″ pieces
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup grated cheese for pasta (your favorite)
  • 1 lb. cooked Penne pasta

You can keep this dish low-carb by using Dreamfields pasta, which I did.  No one even knew the difference.

In a skillet, cook garlic, red pepper, hot pepper sauce in oil and butter for 2-3 minutes.

Add asparagus and cook until tender-crisp, 8-10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Add cheese and pour over cooked pasta.  Mix well. Mangia!