Crab, chilli and tomato pasta

Pasta on the plate

Fresh crab takes me right back to being a kid in Cornwall, sitting outside in the warm summer weekend mornings. My step-dad would come back from the fish shop clutching a whole paper-wrapped pink crab, like a chest of buried treasure. Together we would sit on the patio steps and break our way in, carefully picking out the succulent treasure inside.

The legs and claws would be cracked and piled carefully on a plate, a pile of briny building blocks. They’d be served with a simple green salad. The brown body meat whipped up with just the slightest squeeze of lemon and some Dijon mustard. A creamy piquant treat to dollop onto bread.

Last week, as I wrote about Chengdu, I had one of those moments where I got inspired. I flew into a spicy Sichuan whirlwind sending splatters of chilli, pork and black vinegar all over the kitchen. I got all excited about blogging it, when a sudden thought stopped me dead. I went to check the archives.

There it was, Sichuan style fish flavoured pork, staring smugly out of the screen. And the chilli wind came right out of my sails. But I was still on the red-and-spicy warpath and a small pot of fresh crab meat got me beating my drums in a whole other direction. This dish isn’t just red and spicy, it’s also fresh, redolent of lingering warm evenings by the sea.

Cooking up the crab sauce
Cooking up the crab

For years I was a crab purist, refusing to have it any other way but gleamingly fresh or, at a stretch, in a crab cake. So it wasn’t till much later as I headed into the big wide post-university world that I first tried it with pasta.

Holy crustaceans! It was a shell-shocking revelation. The sharp briny taste of the sea was both mellowed and heightened by a shimmering tomato sauce, the chilli somehow underpinning instead of overwhelming the subtle meat. I couldn’t get enough of it.

No more seafood-snobbery for me. I was a convert to any and all crabby creeds. Although cost kept me from making much at home till much later. By which time I had eaten it in spicy in Indian food, smashed soft-shelled into Thai salads, stir-fried, casseroled and curried.

Ingredients crab pasta
The ingredients

Crab and tomato pasta
Serves two, but is totally scaleable, so just double the quantities for four etc

This is one of those simple pasta dishes that really benefits from not over complicating the sauce. There should be just enough to coat the pasta in a translucent layer of shimmering sauce, with exciting nuggets of crab and tomato clinging on.

100g fresh white crab meat
A small punnet (about 10-12) cherry tomatoes – halved
1 clove garlic – finely sliced
A quarter tsp dried chilli flakes
Juice and zest of half a lemon
Black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
250g fresh pasta

Put some water on the boil for the pasta. Pour a good few glugs of olive oil in a shallow pan and put over a medium heat. When the oil is starting to shimmer put in the garlic and chilli and stir-fry for a minute or so.

Add the tomatoes and cook for 10-15 minutes, crushing them slightly and stirring a couple of times. You should end up with a thick sauce.

When the water in the saucepan is boiling add the pasta and cook according to the instructions on the packet (a rough guideline would be 2-4 mins for fresh, 12-14 for dried).

When you have a minute left for the pasta to cook, add the crab and lemon juice to the tomato sauce, grind in a little black pepper and stir it all in.

Drain the pasta and stir in the sauce and zest. Serve and enjoy

11 Responses to “Crab, chilli and tomato pasta”

  1. Susan

    Love the story, the puns, and the great alliteration. The pasta sounds lovely too. A fun post.

  2. The Grubworm

    @Susan – thanks :) It was a lovely dinner indeed

    @Mr Noodles – was it a rueful laugh by any chance ;)

  3. catty

    I have been craving a good pasta for WEEKS now… and here you are waving this in my face. I hate you.

    Ok, not really. Looks AWESOMENESS.

  4. The Grubworm

    @Catty – i totally did this in revenge for your flaunting of Argentine style beef ribs at me… ;) Not really. It was a pretty good pasta, made better by the fact to takes under 30 minutes to create.

    Easy for you to do, just visit the fish markets and you’re away!

  5. JenCooks

    Yum! Crab is probably one of my favourite things. Now I just have to figure out who is going to make this for me for dinner tonight! :)

  6. The Grubworm

    @JenCooks – it’s one of my favourites too. Did you leave this on the computer screen… a “subtle” hint… ;)

  7. The Ginger Gourmand

    Sat at my desk on a miserable, cold London day really wasn’t the right time to be reading this post… I shall spend the rest of the day with pasta and crab cravings, damn you! I love crab pasta, but like you always used to see it almost as a waste of good crab. I usually keep mine simple with chilli, parsley, garlic and lemon, but I’m liking your tomato idea. Off to the fishmongers i go…

  8. The Grubworm

    @The Ginger Gourmand – Oh man, I’m sorry! I know what it’s like to sit at a desk and read about good food… Still, hopefully it should all have a happy ending, provided the fishmonger has some crab ;)

  9. Going With My Gut

    Can’t wait to try this! Our fish guy at Bermondsey Farmers Market has lovely affordable crab, and just found fresh pasta at Maltby St recently. Tomatoes might be the tricky bit this time of year, but let’s see…

    Thanks for sharing!


  10. The Grubworm

    @Going with my Gut – lucky you, i am always on the hunt for affordable crab. I hope you enjoy.

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