Molto Batali

A down-home delicacy, Italian style

June 19, 2012 

  • Bucatini With Crawfish, Jalapeno And Basil Recipe courtesy of “Molto Batali” (ecco, 2011) 5 pounds crawfish, boiled, cooled, tails removed and shells discarded to yield 8 ounces shelled tail meat (or use 8 ounces frozen crawfish tail meat from our Gulf regions, thawed) 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced 4 jalapeno peppers, cored, seeded and julienned 2 cups basic tomato sauce (for quick results, try my Mario Batali pasta sauces) 2 tablespoons salt 1 1/2 pounds bucatini pasta 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves Grated zest of 2 lemons PICK through the crawfish tail meat and discard any extra bits of shell. BOIL 8 quarts of water in a large pasta pot. HEAT the oil over medium-high heat in a 14-inch saute pan. Add the garlic and jalapenos, and cook until the garlic is light golden brown, about 2 minutes. Add the tomato sauce and cook until slightly dense, about 3 minutes. Lower the heat to a simmer. ADD the salt to the boiling water. Drop the bucatini into the water and cook for 1 minute less than the package instructions indicate. Just before it is done, carefully ladle 1/4 cup of the cooking water into the tomato-jalapeno sauce, and add the crawfish to the sauce too. DRAIN the pasta in a colander and add it into the crawfish mixture. Add the basil and lemon zest, and toss over medium heat for about 30 seconds, until the pasta is nicely coated. Pour into a warmed serving bowl, and serve immediately. Yield: Serves 8 to 10 as a first course, 6 as a main course.

The Food and Drug Administration, marine scientists, environmental experts and members of the fishing community all agree that the seafood on the market from the Gulf of Mexico is safe to eat. Now I’m giving it the Batali stamp of approval. Gulf seafood is back. And crawfish, one of the Gulf area’s beloved crustaceans, is no exception.

Crawfish are small freshwater crustaceans prevalent in southeastern North America – the South’s answer to Maine lobster. Only a small portion of the body of a crawfish is edible. In this recipe, I use tail meat.

Like all crustaceans, crawfish shed their shells, or molt, in order to grow. After they molt, the crawfish shells are thin, soft and edible. These soft-shell crawfish used to be considered an inferior product. Now we know better.

Frozen soft-shell crawfish are just as tasty as fresh, and often more readily available. Allow them to thaw at room temperature. They pair perfectly with the jalapeno-basil mixture in this recipe.

This dish is the perfect embodiment of my credo: Use the best local ingredients as simply as possible and serve them with flourish and joy. At my restaurants, we cook as an Italian might in America, using seasonal ingredients from our surroundings.

Use American crawfish in this Italian-style preparation for a supremely delicious combination of Italian flavors and domestic ingredients.

Mario Batali is the owner of Babbo, Lupa, Otto and other renowned restaurants. His latest book is “Molto Batali,” published by Ecco.

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