Spaghetti alla marinara con gamberetti e cozze

No one really knows where marinara comes from, but according to folk histories, the wives of sailors would prepare marinara for their husbands returning from the sea. As a result, it seems fitting that I include some delicious seafood in this recipe, keeping with tradition.

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Ingredients – Serves Four

500 g (about 500 mL or 2 cups) marinara sauce

200 g (about 7 oz) dried, artisanal angel hair pasta

50 g (about 60 mL or 2 oz) extra virgin olive oil
50 g (about 6 to 8 cloves) garlic, thinly sliced
275 g (about 250 ml or 1 cup) dry white wine
2 sprigs fresh parsley with tender stems, finely chopped
2 g (about 2 tsp) crushed red pepper

700 g (about 20 or 1.5 lbs) large blue mussels
500 g (about 16 or 1 lbs) large brown shrimp, deveined with heads and shells removed

Kosher salt to taste (about 5 g or 1 tsp)

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Preparation

  1. Scrub the mussels under running tap water to remove any grit. Use a towel to grasp the beards, firmly and steadily pulling them until they break off. Do not tear them in a brisk motion as you risk damaging the flesh of the mussel and killing it. Store in a bowl with a towel soaked in very cold water until ready to use. Do not store in this way for longer than an hour before cooking.
  2. Preheat oven to 150 °C (302 °F). Combine the sliced garlic and olive oil in an oven safe ramekin and ensure the garlic is entirely submerged in the oil. If required to fully submerge garlic, add just enough additional oil. When the oven is at temperature, add the ramekin to the oven. When the garlic is at a steady fry in the oil, about 10 minutes, add red pepper flakes, carefully stirring to fully integrate. Continue to fry in the oven until the oil has tinged to a red-brown color, about 10 additional minutes. Separate the garlic and pepper flakes from the oil, reserving each. To read more on the science of garlic, see my Guide to Garlic.
  3. Add the infused oil to a large pan with available water-tight lid and heat over medium heat to 225 °C (437 °F). Add shrimp, well-spaced and in a single layer to ensure shrimp fry and do not steam. Pan fry until lightly browned and pink around the edges, turning once, about two minutes per side. Set shrimp aside.
  4. Very carefully add the wine, salt and reserved garlic and red pepper flake mixture to the pan, stirring to integrate. Simmer until the aroma of the steam no longer contains a strong alcohol odor, about three to four minutes. Add the mussels and cover tightly, reducing the heat to low. Steam mussels until they just start to open, about two minutes. Holding the lid tightly, shake the pan in a circular motion to toss around the mussels in the pan liquids. Steam for an additional minute and remove the lid. Remove and set aside any open mussels. Remove additional mussels as they open. Any mussels that do not open after an additional two minutes of cooking are dead and should be discarded as they are likely not safe to eat.
  5. Cook the angel hair pasta as indicated by the producer for one minute less than al dente. Drain and rinse in cold tap water, then set aside. Note that the longer pasta is set on the counter, the more the texture degrades. Finish the final step and serve with haste.
  6. Add marinara to the pan with the white wine sauce and bring to a steady simmer over medium heat. Toss seafood in sauce to flavor and just warm through. Remove seafood and set aside. Add partially cooked pasta to the simmering sauce along with most of the parsley (set aside just enough to garnish), turning to coat well. Cook for one minute and plate in four portions immediately. Place the shrimp and mussels, in equal proportions, atop the pasta and sauce. Garnish with remaining parsley and serve.
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