Seafood Pasta with Tomato and Basil
A light pasta dish that is big on fresh, seafood flavor with just a bit of richness…lemon zest adds a zing.
Serves 2 (really it’s 2.5…but Michael always gets extra)
- four ounces* of uncooked spaghetti (you can use gluten-free, if you desire)
- 8 uncooked, cleaned shrimp, thawed
- 6 littleneck clams (or cherrystone, whatever is available)
- 1/2 pound (about 10-12) mussels
- one 15 oz can of diced tomatoes, no salt added
- 1 cup chopped white or yellow onion, divided into two half cups
- 1 cup dry white wine, divided into two half cups
- 3 tablespoons chopped garlic
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
- zest of one lemon and its juice (lemon cut in half after zesting, don’t juice it yet)
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
- Parmesan cheese, for serving
- red pepper flakes, optional.
*An ounce of pasta will fit in between your thumb and forefinger as if making the “Ok” sign.
About two hours before you would like to serve the dish, prep your shellfish. Remove any “beards” on the mussels and scrub both mussels and clams very well with a rough brush under running water. Fill a large bowl with clean, cool water and put your clams and mussels in the bowl, submerging them. Add about 1/4 cup flour to the water and stir until the shellfish are swirling in a cloudy-looking bath. The clams and mussels will flush out any sand or grit because they are “feeding” on the flour. It also takes away a lot of the forward saltiness of the clams and mussels. Change your bowl of water about an hour later but this time, do not add flour. After soaking for two hours, drains and rinse your shellfish and set aside.
Most grocery stores sell uncooked, clean shrimp. Cleaned shrimp means shelled and deveined. If you can’t find them in the store, ask the man at the fish counter to do it for you. If he refuses, it’s okay. It’s easy to do at home. Just make sure your shrimp are thawed, not frozen. To shell: pinch the tail and gently wiggle it from side to side. Pinch off legs. When the legs come off, the shell will lift up and off the shrimp. To devein: on the belly of the shrimp, you will see a dark vein running down the middle. Gently run a small paring knife down a portion of the dark vein. Once exposed, tug gently on the dark vein; it should come out very easily. Set cleaned shrimp aside on a paper towel to dry.
For pasta: heat large pot of water with a generous sprinkle of salt.
In a large skillet, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat. Saute 1/2 cup onion and one third of the garlic until softened, about three to five minutes. Once sauteed, add 1/2 cup of your white wine. Wait until it bubbles slightly. Add your clams and mussels. Cover the pan and let the shellfish steam for about five minutes. Once steamed, drain shellfish in a colander but…drain them over a bowl. Reserve the cooking liquid from the shellfish. Remove clams and mussels from their shells when they are cool enough to handle. Remember: discard any shellfish that have not opened during cooking; they were probably dead to begin with and therefore, not to be eaten.
In the same large skillet (don’t bother rinsing it), heat more olive oil over medium high heat. Cook shrimp until just slightly pink on one side, about two to three minutes. Turn over once pink and cook for only a minute more. If they are slightly underdone, that’s okay. They will cook more later in the sauce itself. Remove shrimp from the pan with a slotted spoon.
By this time, your pasta water should be boiling. Add spaghetti and cook until al dente, about 1-2 minutes less than what your package directions say. While pasta is cooking, add the remaining garlic and onion into the oil and cook until softened, about three to five minutes. Add the remaining white wine and reduce by half. Add can of tomatoes with juice and reserved shellfish liquid. Cook sauce for about 6-8 minutes over medium heat. The sauce should be slightly thick at this point. (If it’s very thin, spoon out three tablespoons of the sauce and add a tablespoon of flour, creating a paste. Add the sauce paste back into the pan and stir to combine. It should thicken over the heat, no problem.) Add salt and pepper to taste. Add clams and mussels (remember to take them out of their shells) and the shrimp back into the sauce and cook for about two minutes. Add drained pasta, chopped basil and lemon zest into the sauce and stir to combine.Turn off the heat.
Serve in large bowls. Top with a squeeze of lemon juice, large shavings or sprinklings of Parmesan, and red pepper flakes. Add more salt and pepper as you need. Drizzle with olive oil and dig your fork right in. It is delicious. I promise.