Red Sauce Fridays #20: Spaghetti alla chitarra with crab


Disclaimer: Esca’s crab pasta is much more beautiful than this

I had a little extra crab meat and heavy cream this week after making this insanely good quiche over the weekend (if you go deep-dish, it does need an extra 10 minutes or so in the oven to set, but trust me, it’s not John Travolta’s favorite for nothing).

The first thing that came to mind was the transcendent pasta with crab available at this restaurant, which for the love of all that is good in the world, is still going strong, though under-the-radar, some 15 years after it opened.

This restaurant is unlike any other—the chef Dave Pasternack, who can cook a dish of pasta like nobody’s business—also happens to be crazy enough to GO OUT ON A BOAT and CATCH THE FISH HIMSELF that will appear on his menu. Because chefs get too much sleep already, right?

In any case, there is a pasta on the regular menu that could make me cry just thinking about it. Over homemade thick spaghetti, given those chewy squarish corners from being rolled out over the strings of a chitarra (say it with me: kee-TAR-rah, and you will get the reference: guitar!), are chunks of the sweetest crabmeat and a nice dollop of briny-rich sea urchin. I seem to remember some delicate onion greenery swirling around there, as well. I wanted to reproduce this dish, exactly. But I live in Syracuse, New York, where to procure sea urchin, you have to put some advance thought into it, and I had not had that.

So instead, I melted some anchovy fillets into some butter, to try to simulate that salty-sea richness, and then added about 1 1/2 cups of my tomato puree. I simmered for a few minutes, then added a nice bit of heavy cream (don’t forget to taste for salt), turned off the heat, then gently folded in the crab, to keep the chunks whole, rather than letting them shred. I snipped chives and ground some black pepper over the top. It was… not like Dave’s—how could it be?! Did I mention the BOAT? But it was damn good.


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