This pasta dish is a close interpretation of the “Amatriciana di Mare” recipe of chef Dino de Bellis (currently working at Rome’s Salotto Culinario restaurant). I think his title is a misnomer because ‘amatriciana’ and/or ‘matriciana’ is all about pancetta and/or guanciale, neither of which are even remotely connected to this seafood concoction — but who cares? It sounded intriguing when I read it and opted to make it on last New Year’s Eve. It’s not a difficult dish (nothing I cook is ever difficult) but it does involve a lot of steps and hence not for those who are in a hurry. It was definitely worth the effort is all I have to say.
Ingredients: (1) ‘astice’ or small lobster — but this is optional, I was going to make another dish using astice and so I thought I would put the astice shells to good use in making the fish stock, (2) venus clams, and (3) any variety of shrimps and crayfish of your choice. Also required will be: good quality pasta, a handful of pistachios, lemon zest, a couple of small tomatoes, olive oil and garlic.
Peel the zest of one lemon. You won’t need all of it so you can put the rest in a plastic bag to keep in the freezer. (Please ignore the onions on the left of the photo, they have nothing to do with this recipe.)
Place the lemon zest in a little saucepan full of cold water and bring to the boil. When it does, throw the water away and repeat the operation 5 times. Drain the lemon zest and set aside. You won’t be using it till almost the very end.
Here is the pasta. Open the packet and set aside.
And now the first thing that needs to be done is make the fish stock.
I. MAKING THE FISH STOCK
Remove the heads from the the mazzancolle prawns and peel the shell off their bodies — their shells are going to add taste to the stock. Set aside 4-5 heads of the mazzancolle, however, because they will be used to season the sauce later on.
Remove the heads from the shrimps too — but do not peel them just yet.
Now add the decapitated shrimps to the stock. Cook them for only 3 minutes and drain straight away and plunge into a bowl with ice-cold water. Now peel the shrimps and …Return the previously cooled shells of the shrimps back to the stock.
Now steam the venus clams (vongole) so that the shells open. All you have to do is place the venus clams in a pot, cover it, and put it over a flame for a few minutes until they steam open. No need to any wine.
Snap the shell of the venus clams so that the clams can rest on the half shell. Put them back in the pan for now and cover with the lid. Set aside.
II. MAKING THE SEAFOOD SAUCE
Remember the mazzancolle prawns, i.e. what’s on the left of this photo? De-vein the mazzancolle and cut them into one-inch pieces or so. Also chop up a tomato into cubes. (Talk about the Barefoot Contessa … what’s my foot doing in this photo?) A close-up of the cut-up mazzancolle. Drizzle some olive oil into a sauce and add a little bit of chilli and a couple of small garlic cloves. Turn the heat on and cook the garlic until it turns golden. At this point, add the mazzancolle heads. Cook them for one minute on a highter heat and then add the chopped tomato. Now, add the liquor that the venus clams exuded (this sounds like double-speak for some other activity that’s beyond any of us!!! What I mean is : add the liquid that the venus clams produced when they were steamed earlier on.)
Chop up some parsley leaves while the pasta is cooking, as well as the lemon zest. When the pasta is almost cooked, transfer it to the saucepan … and finish off the pasta by adding the stock until the past is perfectly cooked … ‘al dente’.
Add the venus clams on their half shells … Mix well or toss the pan (I can’t toss and take photos at the same time!). And only towards the very end do you add the mazzancolle prawns. Again, mix well or toss the pan. Add the lemon zest … Remove the mazzancolle heads … Throw them away. Add the pistachios (that were toasted earlier on … in fact, I think it would be better to pulverise the pistachios instead of leaving them whole. Never mind, next time.) Switch the heat off. And, last, add the parsely. Give it a final toss. Here it is. If you like, you could add one final drizzle of olive oil. Buon appetito.It really was very good. Tasty but balanced … very filling and ‘light’ at the same time.