I was in Alaska once on a luxury cruise ship with some clients of mine and some friends. We went hiking up a mountain from the Disney-esque town of Skagway, and discovered wild porcini mushrooms growing along the path. I picked as many as I could and made a bag out of my shirt, unsure what I was going to do with them all as I was staying in a cruise stateroom with no kitchen.
When we got back into town, we went to the local brewpub for a beer and some crab legs. Sitting at the bar was Celestino Drago, a famous Genovese chef and restaurateur here in Los Angeles, who was the guest chef on our cruise. I approached him looking like an expectant mother, introduced myself, and revealed the contents of my shirt. “Porcini!!” he gaped. “Where did you find them!??” He then presented the answer to my dilemma, inviting me to cook with him one afternoon in the galley of one of the ship’s restaurants.
He trimmed up the porcini and asked me to make a risotto with them. For his part, he found a couple fresh Dungeness crabs from nearby waters, broke them into pieces, and together with tomato and saffron and olive oil, produced one of the best pastas I’ve ever eaten.
I have made it here for you. And included the recipe for Drago’s linguini with crab, as I remember it. Drago might differ. I hope it will be one of the best pastas YOU’VE ever eaten, regardless of whether you are able to pull crabs from your own nearby waters. (I recommend Dungeness crab cracked in the shell for this pasta. There’s a lovely ritualistic quality to breaking the shells and sucking the meat from within while you eat the pasta. In the video, I’ve made it with Alaskan kind crab removed from the shell, which is good too and easier to eat.)
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Linguini with Crab
1 lb linguini
1 large Dungeness crab, cleaned
4 large tomatoes
1/2 tsp saffron threads
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
5 cloves garlic, crushed
salt & pepper
Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook garlic until golden. Puree tomatoes in a blender, and add to olive oil and cook, stirring frequently.Meanwhile, break up crab into many small pieces, cracking legs and claws.
Heat water in a large pot for linguini. Add 2 tbsp salt and, when the water boils, add linguini, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. While pasta is cooking, add crab chunks to tomato sauce and toss. Add saffron and stir. When linguini is cooked to al dente, scoop from pot into sauce pan and turn heat on to high. Cook, tossing and stirring, for a couple minutes until linguini is well coated with sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Using tongs, scoop onto four plates, making sure to distribute crab chunks evenly. Drizzle with a little additional olive oil and serve.
Wine recommendation: a California pinot noir or Italian sangiovese