Friday, March 7, 2014

Sea Urchin Spaghetti

It has been no secret that I am very passionate about food and cooking. However, in the last year or so, I was approached by a lot of people telling me how much they liked my "food" blog! Now, I do occasionally post about food, but looking at my blog, I never thought that it would be mistaken for one about food! Here I am, fixing this, the only way one can... by starting to post my own recipes. Yes, I am giving a few secrets away, and this first one is really not much of a secret. Spaghetti ai ricci, sea urchin spaghetti, uni pasta, call it as you wish, but this dish has been a long-time favorite of mine, and of my guests, whether they were obsessively in love with sea urchin, or whether they previously despised it, this very simple dish seems to always do the trick.

It was photographed by Bonjwing Lee of The Ulterior Epicure,  whom I credit for the photos below, and mentioned in the New York Times' Diner's Journal by Jeff Gordiner. I have made it at home for lots and lots of musicians, friends, and food lovers.
No big secret in this recipe, except for cooking perfectly the pasta, and getting the freshest Santa Barbara sea urchin. I love the rich creaminess of the Santa Barbara sea urchin, which somehow magically creates a creamy sauce, very much like a carbonara (don't ever think about adding cream to either dishes!!)
It is a very rich dish, so small portions are recommended.

Serves 4

1 large box of Santa Barbara sea urchin (I recommend the Lobster Place, if in New York, at Chelsea Market. A bit pricey, but consistently good quality. You can look elsewhere for better deals, but be careful!)
1/2 bunch of chives
1/2 bunch of Italian flat parsley
1 clove of garlic
250 grams of De Cecco spaghetti (my favorite, as they hold "al dente" perfectly well. I wouldn't waste time or money in fancier brands for this dish)
4-5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

Boil a large pot of salted water and cook the pasta. It should be firm to the bite, but not crunchy. Salt to taste. It needs to taste good enough to be eaten on its own. Also you won't be cooking this in any sauce, so it needs to be boiled to the final firmness. Save same pasta water for the sauce.

While boiling the pasta, heat the oil with the peeled, but not crushed (!), garlic clove. As soon as it starts to sizzle, turn it off and toss away the garlic, or it will overpower the sauce.

In a large metal bowl, pour most of the sea urchin in, saving four or more pieces for decoration. add the oil, the super finely chopped chives and chopped parsley and start whipping it with a fork.

Add the cooked pasta as soon as it's ready. I like to use tongs to pull it out straight from the boiling pot, which will have the added benefit of including some pasta water.

Keep whipping the whole think with a fork for a few seconds until it is all amalgamated into a creamy texture. If it seems too dry, add a bit of the pasta water, but don't make the dish liquid. It should be creamy.

Dish the pasta in four bowls and decorate with the pieces of sea urchin, and a little fresh chives and parsley.

Buon appetito!