Monday, December 14, 2015

Spaghetti ai di Mare

A few weeks ago, I posted a picture on Facebook of one of Matt's and my date nights in where I made a seafood pasta.  I got so many requests for the recipe, I decided it was time for another blog post.  Don't be afraid of the name!  I know it sounds intense, but I promise it is not a difficult dish.  You got this!!

Spaghetti ai di Mare

If this picture doesn't make you want to kiss someone, then I don't know what does!  One of the first people that contacted me after I posted the picture on Facebook was our dear friend, Susan.  Susan is in Matt's class, and we kinda adopted her once we moved to Naples.  She helped me create this beautiful meal for our husbands.  It really is a stunner for entertaining.  The dish serves 4 easily!

Before I show you how to make the seafood sauce, I made some garlic toast and spaghetti to be waiting in the wings until the sauce is finished.  You want all of your focus to be on the sauce so the seafood does not get overcooked.

Take 1-2 baguettes and slice it at an angle into 1/2 inch pieces.  

Coat the bottom of a skillet with olive oil (about 3 TBSP), layer the toasts with the cut side down to allow the oil to sink in slightly, then flip the toasts to coat the other side.  You can also use a brush to apply the olive oil to both sides of the toast, but I found this method to be a little faster.

Once the first side is toasted, flip the bread to get the other side nice and toasty.  Remove the bread from the skillet and start a second batch until the toasts are done.

While the bread is still warm, cut a garlic clove in half and rub both sides with the garlic juices.  This makes the bread have a garlicky taste that is not overwhelming, but just right!  Look at Susan go!  Go Susan! Go!

Cook some spaghetti according to the package recommendations.  I thought this was how much we needed for 4 people.  I was wrong.  This was enough for 8... maybe one day I will learn.  Once the spaghetti is cooked, strain in a colander and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.  The sauce will heat it up when you are ready.

Reserve 1 cup of pasta water in case the sauce is too thick.

It's time to prep your seafood.  When I first started cooking, seafood really intimidated me, so it is understandable to feel apprehensive.  That is what I am here for!  Let me share a few pearls of seafood wisdom I have found out over the years.

Take 1/4 lb of scallops.  Bay scallops would be great in this recipe because they are small, but I had some regular sized scallops on hand so I used those instead.  Scallops have this tough, muscley portion that comes off easily.  Trust me, you don't want to eat it.  It is rubbery and not soft like a scallop should be.

Cut each scallop into quarters

Woah...what is that!?!  This is squid.  You make think, "Ew, squid," but don't think of it as squid.  It sounds much more appetizing as calamari.  I just tell you this because if you go to your fish market and you ask for calamari, they will direct you to the frozen, pre-breaded stuff.  What you need are squid tubes.  

I used 1/2 lbs of squid tubes which I cut into 1/2 inch rings.  Lay the squid on your cutting board, as shown, and cut a vertical line down the length of the tube.

These are mussels.  They look similar to clams, but are longer, skinnier, and have a black shell.  These will come alive...yes...alive.  And you should not get them if they are not alive.  They won't look alive, cause they don't do much.  The ways you can tell if they are alive is that once you cook them they open.  If they do not open, throw them away.  

The only thing you need to keep in mind with mussels, besides the alive thing, is they have beards.  Yes, beards.  Pretty cool, huh?  Yes cool on a mussel; no, not cool in your mouth.  The beards should be removed before you cook the mussels.  I usually get Matt to do it, because my fingers are not always strong enough.  If you do not have a handy Matt, then place the beard between your thumb and the flat surface of a kitchen knife (the not sharp part) as close to the mussel as you can get, and turn the kitchen knife at a 90 degree angle to help leverage the beard out.

Susan asked the very good question of, "What if you eat a beard?"  I told her that nothing would happen, but it would be like eating a feather off of a chicken wing.  It won't hurt you, but may not be very pleasant.  Keep in mind that not all of the mussels will have a beard, but just be on the look out for them.

All of your seafood is prepped!  I also grabbed 1/2 lb of large shrimp.  Now for the easy part!  The sauce!

List of ingredients: 1/2 bottle of 750ml white wine, 4 oz of tomato paste, 2-3 garlic cloves, 3 TBSP of butter and olive oil, 1/4 cup of chopped Italian parsley, salt, and red pepper flakes

Finely dice your garlic cloves.  I know, I know!  Garlic for date night!  But when you are both having it, the garlic cancels itself out, right?

In a large skillet, melt 3 TBSP of butter with 3 TBSP of olive oil

Add your garlic and saute at medium high heat for 1 minute until it becomes fragrant

Add the 4 oz of tomato paste.  The can I had was 6 oz so I used about 2/3.

Heat the paste until it begins to loosen, about a minute or so

Add 1/2 of the bottle of white wine, and bring the mixture to a boil to allow for the alcohol to cook off.  This takes about 3-4 minutes.

Add the mussels.  The mussels take the longest to cook, so they go in first by themselves.  Turn down the heat to medium.

Cover the mussels and allow them to cook for 2 minutes

Add the shrimp and stir in the sauce.  Allow both to cook for another minute.

Add the calamari and scallops.  

It is time to season the sauce.  Add a pinch of salt and crushed red pepper flakes to your liking.

Stir the seafood in to coat in sauce.  Cook everything for 2-3 minutes.  If the sauce is too thick, add a splash of reserved pasta water until it becomes like a soup consistency.  Wow!  So you saw how fast the sauce cooks.  This is why everything needs to be prepped prior.  You also do not want this sitting on the stove for long or all of the seafood gets over cooked.

Add 1/2 of the chopped parsley.  Isn't that just one of the most beautiful things you have ever seen?  Susan is a genius with the parsley.

Dish it up!  I placed a bed of spaghetti, heaping spoonfuls of seafood and sauce, then garnished with the garlic toasts and the remainder of chopped parsley.

I have to give a shout out to my fur baby, Leyla.  Thanks for always keeping me company in the kitchen!  Don't even try to tell me that dog is not smiling.  

Since the weather is practically perfect right now in Naples, we had an al fresco dinner.  Cheers to good friends, good food, and a great time!


Garlic Toasts:
1 medium or 2 small baguettes
Olive oil
1 clove of garlic, cut in half horizontally

Spaghetti ai di Mare:
1/2 lb spaghetti, 1 cup of cooking liquid reserved
1/2 lb large shrimp, deveined and shells removed
1/2 lb mussels, de-bearded
1/2 lb squid tubes cut into rings
1/4 lb of bay scallops or regular scallops cut into quarters
2-3 garlic cloves, finely diced
1/2 750ml bottle of white wine
4 oz of tomato paste
Pinch of salt
Red pepper flakes to taste
1/4 cup of chopped Italian parsley


Cut the baguette into 1/2 inch thick pieces.  Coat the bottom of a skillet with olive oil (about 3 TBSP), layer the toasts with the cut side down to allow the oil to sink in slightly, then before they toast, flip the toasts to coat the other side.  Allow the bread to toast, flip them again to allow the other side to toast.  Remove from the pan and rub the cut side of the garlic clove on both sides of the toast.  Repeat the process as necessary.  Set the toasts aside until ready to serve.

Cook 1/2 lb of spaghetti according to the package's directions.  Reserve 1 cup of cooking liquid.  

Prep seafood.  In a large skillet over medium high heat, melt 3 TBSP of butter with 3 TBSP of olive oil.  Add the garlic.  Saute for 1 minute until fragrant.  Add the tomato paste and heat to allow oil to combine and loosen the paste.  Add the wine and bring to a boil.  Allow the alcohol to boil off by cooking sauce for 2-3 minutes.  Lower the heat to medium.  Add the mussels and cover for 2 minutes.  Add the shrimp and stir to cover shrimp with sauce.  Cook for 1 minute.  Add the scallops, squid, salt, and pepper.  Stir to cover the seafood with sauce and allow to cook for 2-3 minutes.  If the sauce is too thick, add some reserved pasta water to make it a soup-like consistency.  Add 1/2 of the chopped parsley.  Stir to combine. 

To serve, place a nest of spaghetti in the bottom of an individual serving bowl.  Ladle seafood and sauce over the spaghetti.  Garnish the dish with parsley and garlic toasts.  Enjoy!