One of my favorite trips in recent years was my vacation in New Orleans in 2013. I went there with one of my best friends and we had an amazing time, days and nights filled with food and music and beignets every day. I can’t forget the meal we had at Domenica, and one of the dishes we tried was a squid ink pasta with blue crab and herbs. I’ve been meaning to re-create that and over a year later, I finally did. And I added a few touches to make it my own.
I made this amazing Squid Ink Spaghetti with Buttered Crab and Gremolata Breadcrumbs.
I bought some Italian squid ink spaghetti from my neighborhood gourmet store, Cardullo’s in Harvard Square, then cooked that aglio olio style – lots of garlic, olive oil, and salty anchovies. Then I took some good quality lump crab meat, poured melted butter on that and heated it up, seasoning with salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon juice. The last time I made buttered crab, it almost didn’t make it to the crostini, but I was better with self control this time.
And last but not least, I made gremolata breadcrumbs:
This little pan of crunchy golden breadcrumbs took the pasta over the top. It’s a mixture of garlic, parsley, lemon zest, olive oil, and toasted panko breadcrumbs. It was bright and fresh, and added an addicting texture to the spaghetti and crab meat.
It was actually my first time cooking with squid ink pasta at home, and it really was very similar to plain old spaghetti. It did not have an overly seafood flavor, just a slight marine tang. Even when tossed in the garlic and anchovy oil, it still didn’t taste fishy. It just tasted rich and delicious.
I also especially liked how gourmet it looked. I mean just look at that:
Gorgeous black pasta, glistening with olive oil flavored with garlic and anchovies, topped with buttery sweet crab meat, and sprinkled with crunchy lemony gremolata breadcrumbs. It looks so fancy, I almost want to wear it.
Okay, that was weird.
It looks so fancy, I almost didn’t want to eat it?
Okay, that was a lie.
But you know what I mean. It was beautiful!
I could eat spaghetti aglio olio on its own every day, but the buttered crab and toasted breadcrumbs made this into such a luxurious meal. The lemon and parsley also added freshness and vibrancy to each bite, so this didn’t feel like one of those heavy, nap-inducing meals.
I’ve made pasta with gremolata breadcrumbs before, and I’ve eaten plenty of other mouth-watering and extravagant pasta with crab elsewhere, but this homemade version – the one that took over a year for me to make in my own kitchen, the one that brings back memories of one of my best vacations – might just be my favorite of them all.
Squid Ink Spaghetti with Buttered Crab and Gremolata Breadcrumbs
Spaghetti with Buttered Crab
8 oz squid ink spaghetti
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 oz (1 can) anchovies
1/4 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
juice of 1/2 lemon
8 oz (1 cup) fresh crab meat (I used lump crab)
1/4 cup butter, melted
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
zest of half a lemon
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
- Make the pasta. Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Rinse pasta with cool water; set aside.
- Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic, anchovies, and red pepper flakes. Break up the anchovies with a wooden spoon until they melt into the oil and garlic mixture.
- Add cooked pasta to pan, and toss. Squeeze fresh lemon juice over pasta, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- While pasta is cooking, make the gremolata breadcrumbs. Heat up a small skillet or saute pan over medium heat and add olive oil. Add the garlic and let it soften and lightly brown. Add the lemon zest and parsley, and then the bread crumbs and mix well. Lower heat to medium-low and let the bread crumb mixture toast lightly. Set aside.
- Make the buttered crab. Combine crab meat and remaining lemon juice. Microwave for 1 minute just to heat it up, so you're not working with cold crab meat. Pour melted butter on top, and mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Assemble pasta. Transfer spaghetti to a big platter or individual plates, topped with buttered crab, and generously sprinkle breadcrumbs on top. Serve immediately.
Have you ever recreated a memorable meal from one of your travels? I’d love to hear about it!