Spaghetti Nero d’Avola with Shellfish
1 hour, max if you need to clean and de-beard the shellfish, about 20 minutes if everything is pre-cleaned
Earlier this week, I shared with you the dishes that we served for the Antipasti course of our big Sicilian dinner. Today, we continue with our primi course!
The Primi course, which follows the antipasti, is generally formed of a pasta dish of some sort, and we did not disappoint. We served a trio of delicious seafood pastas. I created a Handmade Pasta with a Creamy and Lemony Ricotta which paired with a Squid Ink Sauce. It was divine! In addition we created a Spaghetti Nero D’Avola with a spicy tomato sauce of Mussels, Razor Clams, and Prawns. Not sure what Speghetti Nero D’Avola means? It means I boiled my pasta in the Nero d’Avola red wine from Sicily instead of water. I saw this for the first time in Sicily, and fell in love! Our final pasta dish was one that seems a bit unconventional for Italy, but is actually a quintessentially Sicilian dish, a Seafood Couscous!
Sicily was full of so many gastronomic discoveries for me, and this dish exemplifies one of these. When I was in Agrigento, I ate at the town’s most famous restaurant, La Posata di Federico II. Like elsewhere in the relatively small town, no one spoke English or French, and my Italian is pathetic, so I resorted to miming and drawing pictures to communicate throughout my stay. When I sat down at the restaurant, an almost stereotypically tiny old nonna handed me a giant menu to read through. I did not understand too many things, but picked a pasta Nero d’Avola, knowing that that is the name of one of the local wines. I hoped for the best. The nonna, seeing my drawing I had started and approving of my meal choice, I think, pinched and wiggled my chin and went to put in my order to the chef.
I was amazed when I was served purple pasta! After tasting it, I knew that the pasta was somehow cooked in red wine. I have never seen this before! What a wonder! I made it a mission to reproduce the results and serve my own Pasta Nero d’Avola.
I am so proud to present this dish because the pairing of the Mussels, Prawns, and Sicilian Razor Clams (which I was so lucky to spot at H Mart on my seafood mission), swimming in their spicy tomato and white wine broth, pair fantastically with the wine soaked noodles.
I figured the best bet was to cook the pasta halfway in water, and then finish cooking them in a bottle of red wine. I used a bottle of wine per two pounds of pasta, and the noodles absorbed almost all of it, so I say that is a good quantity not to feel like you are wasting wine. When I put the noodles into the pot of wine, it seemed almost like a stew and I worried that there would not be enough liquid, but if you precook the pasta halfway, it will turn out perfectly, at least it did for me!
Last month, I finally made my trip to Sicily, the glorious land of fish, beautiful food, sunshine and Greek and Roman monuments. I landed in Catania and fell in love instantly. I ate some of the best food I have ever had, and was inspired to create some really incredible flavor combinations. I love pasta, and truly appreciate the art of making fresh homemade pasta. With that said, I always consider pasta dishes as a delicious but simple thing to cook when I don’t feel like doing something complex and crazy. Fresh and simple….but…I learned that is not always the case. I ate incredible pasta dishes with complex (and frequently multiple) sauces that intermingled on my plate in an explosion of flavors and visual elements. Creamy ricotta balanced with pitch black squid ink like black snakes making their way through a white sand beach.
I was so thrilled to come home and share the incredible cuisine I experienced with our friends, and this past Saturday, I finally had the opportunity. We hosted 17 of our lovely friends for a traditional Sicilian meal, which, unlike our traditional 3 course dinners, sported four courses. As per Sicilian tradition, we started with an antipasti course of Arancini, Croquettes, and Bruschetta.
To start our meal, we made a trio of delicious Antipasti. If you are already a lover of squid ink, try my Squid Ink Bread, which we used to create a Sea Urchin and Lardo Bruschetta. Alongside the bruschetta, we served some Spinach Arancini. We also served some incredibly delicious Milk and Cheese Croquettes (the recipe for which I will not share yet, as I am still figuring out how to prevent them from exploding while frying….the taste is divine though!).
The Secondi course generally consists of meats and fishes. We served an Eggplant Capotana with Swordfish, and a delicious and slow cooked Braised Lamb Shank Stew. Perhaps it was too much food, but I couldn’t think of a single dish to remove from the list.
We finished our meal with Cannoli made completely from scratch! Stay tuned for all of our recipes in the coming days!
- for the pasta
- 1 bottle red wine
- 3 cloves garlic, sliced
- 2 pounds spaghetti, cooked halfway in water
- drizzle of olive oil
- for the shellfish sauce:
- 28 ounce can of plum tomatoes, broken up with your fingers
- 8 large garlic cloves minced
- 2 shallots, minced
- 2 pounds mussels, cleaned and de-bearded
- 1 pound razor clams, or other clams, cleaned
- 1 1/2 pounds prawns
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 teaspoons fresh thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
- 1 cup dry white wine
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 handful of parsley, chopped roughly/li>
- For the pasta, cook in water half of the time that is needed for al dente. For most spaghetti, that will be five minutes.
- Meanwhile, bring a pot of wine to simmer and drop in the sliced garlic cloves.
When ready to serve, move the noodles from the water to the wine broth and cook for the remaining time needed to reach al-dente.
Drizzle with olive oil and place on a serving platter.
- For the sauce, steam the mussels and clams in a large Dutch oven with a lid. I prefer to simmer the wine, drop in the clams and mussels and close the lid. It should take 2/3 minutes for the shellfish to cook. The mussels are ready when their lids open. Discard any of the mussels that do not open after about 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cook the prawns in some olive oil until each side is pink. Add to the pot of mussels and clams.
- Discard any bits of prawns left in the pan and cook the garlic and shallots for a few minutes in some extra olive oil.
Add the tomatoes, thyme, and red pepper. Cook for about 10 minutes until slightly thickened and the flavors meld.
Season with salt and pepper.
- Mix in the seafood and wine and cook for a few minutes longer.
- To serve, spoon some of the shellfish sauce over the pasta, serve immediately.
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