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Sunday, 24 July 2011

Pennette Pasta with Fresh Crab, Plum Tomatoes & Chilli

Crab is in season and I found a beautiful specimen on display on the counter at my fishmonger's, having arrived fresh from Devon on the same morning. A tip on crab: if you can, buy a whole one and pick the meat out yourself, as you will end up with infinitely more delicious white meat than if you'd buy a dressed crab. Sure, it involves a little effort, however for only £10 a whole crab gave me a massive bowl of white crabmeat, which generously serves four people.

INGREDIENTS (for two people)

  • Half of the white crabmeat picked from a 1 Kg crab 
  • 200 gr of pennette pasta (the Giuseppe Cocco brand, available in Waitrose, is the real deal. Or you can use De Cecco spaghettini, too)
  • 250 gr of organic, ripe plum tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
  • One tablespoon of tomato purée
  • One large clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • A large handful of parsely, finely chopped, plus some more for sprinkling on top before serving
  • A small red chilli, finely chopped
  • A splash of double cream
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
It's quicker if you buy a crab that's already been cooked, however only do so if you are friends with your fishmonger and can be certain that the crustacean is fresh. Otherwise, buy it alive and boil it (please kill it humanely first! Only plunge it in hot water once you are sure it is dead) and let it cool. Armed with a hammer, a spoon, a fork and a bit of patience, tackle the crab. Place it on a chopping board, crack the shell open and proceed to picking the meat, separating the white meat from the brown meat. Clean up the crab completely: it was killed to feed you, so show respect by using every single part of it (except for the gills, of course).

You will end up with a large quantity of white meat. The shell of the crab can be boiled with a carrot, a stick of celery and a small white onion to make a light fish stock (to be used for risotto, bisque or a sauce to accompany fish), and the brown crabmeat can be mixed to the white one to go in sandwiches or crabcakes.

You are now ready to make the pasta dish. Heat three tablespoons of olive oil in a large, non-stick frying pan and gently fry the parsley, garlic and chilli together. They need to soften, but not brown. Then add the plum tomatoes and turn the heat up, thus making them loose all the excess water. Stir in the tomato purée and season with salt and pepper. You should end up with a thick, reduced sauce. Finally stir in the crabmeat and turn the heat off. 

Cook the pennette pasta al dente, drain and reserve a little of the cooking water. Transfer the pasta in the pan where your sauce is and sauté over a high heat for a couple of minutes, adding some starch-rich cooking water to help binding the two. Finally, turn the heat off, add a splash of double cream to give the pasta a glossy, attractive appearance and delicate taste and serve immediately, with a little more fresh parsley sprinkled on top. 

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