I have fond memories of midnight crabbing on the Quantuck Bay. This late night effort always meant a Sunday feast of my father’s linguini with blue crabs in red sauce.
He has been making this dish since I was a child, and it is the one time that we Lucianos, are all quiet around the table with sauce-splattered faces from sucking out the sweet meat.
Linguini with Blue Crabs in Red Sauce
- 2 dozen crabs, cleaned
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil
- 5 garlic cloves, sliced
- 1 small can of tomato paste
- 4 12-ounce cans of crushed tomatoes
- ½ cup of red wine
- 1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
- 2 tablespoons of freshly chopped parsley
- ⅓ cup sea salt for pasta water
- 1 tablespoon of salt
- 1 tablespoon of cracked black pepper
- 2 pounds of dried linguini
Directions: Clean the crabs:
- Stun live blue crab by placing in ice water for five minutes.
- Grasping crab by its legs and under the top shell spine, pry off the top shell using the shell’s spine for leverage. This instantly kills the crab.
- Flip crab over and remove the apron and rinse under cold water, removing entrails.
- Using thumb, twist off the mouthparts and remove spongy gills from both halves and rinse, set aside.
In a large stockpot sauté the garlic in olive oil over low heat for 5 minutes. Slowly heating the garlic infuses the garlic flavor into the oil; do not burn. Add the tomato paste and red pepper flakes, stir for 2 minutes. Then add the red wine to loosen up the bits on the bottom of the pot. Add the crushed tomatoes, oregano and 1 tablespoon of sea salt and cracked black pepper, stir to incorporate. Add the crabs. (If the legs fall off during the cleaning process simply add them in.) Give the pot a gentle swirl. Simmer the sauce for two hours with the lid closed. Check frequently to make sure it is not boiling. If the sauce is watery, set the lid ajar while simmering. Fill a large pot with water 3 inches from the rim. Place the ⅓ cup of sea salt in the pot. Seasoning your pasta water with salt is extremely important. Once the water comes to a rolling boil, add the pasta and cook until the linguini is al dente. Take the crabs out of the sauce and place in a large bowl. Once the linguini is done, drain in a colander and place the pasta back in the pot it was cooking in. Add 4 cups of the red sauce to dress the pasta, add the parsley and toss. Place in a large serving bowl.
Tools and wear: Crab crackers, a table lined with newspapers and a bib will be necessary as you will be cracking, slurping and sucking. Serves: 8 (with possible leftovers)