YONKERS, N.Y. -- Growing up in a large family as I did, we ate a lot of pasta. Of course, not being Italian meant my parents were not schooled in the art of great pasta. Our Irish version of many pasta staples would have caused quite a stir in an Italian neighborhood.
Lasagna normally included American cheese and our tomato sauce often had the addition of canned peas (so we were getting our vegetables). However, it was the idea of having a family meal together that was important, complete with Wonder bread for soaking up the sauce.
While I loved those family meals, I have come to respect the simplicity of well prepared and authentic Italian cuisine. In the Hudson Valley there are a host of terrific Italian restaurants from humble pizzerias serving great simple baked pasta dishes like manicotti and stuffed shells, to fancier places serving Chitarra Carbonara or Fussili Amatricana.
Restaurants like Del' Arte in Orangeburg, Marcello’s in Suffern and Mulinos in White Plains serve classic well prepared authentic Italian specialties. Then there are the newer eateries which twist many of the classics to represent their idea of Italian cuisine.
So while you probably won’t find American cheese hiding in your next bowl of pasta at great restaurants like Port Chester's Tarry Lodge, Yonkers' Zuppa, L’inizio in Ardsley or The Cookery in Dobbs Ferry, you will find interesting new ingredients being used that might not necessarily be considered “classic”.
Below is my recipe for spaghetti with crabmeat, a version you’re not likely to find in your grandmother's recipe notes.
Spaghetti with Crabmeat and Green Onion and Toasted Crumbs
- 6 Tbs butter
- 1 shallot, minced
- 2 ounces white wine
- 4 ounces chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 8 oz. jumbo lump crabmeat
- 1 bunch scallions, minced
- 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1 small well toasted French roll or a piece of baguette (for bread crumbs)
- 1 lb thick hollow spaghetti, cooked “al dente” (at the restaurant we use fresh pasta that is cut on guitar like strings).
• In a large sauté pan over moderate heat melt 1 tablespoon butter.
• Add shallot and sweat for three minutes, do not brown.
• Add white wine and chicken stock and reduce till only two tablespoons liquid remain and pan is almost dry.
• Add heavy cream to pan and bring to a boil.
• Cut butter into small bits and begin adding to pan one piece at a time.
• As you add butter continuously swirl pan to incorporate butter.
• When all butter has been incorporated and sauce is smooth add crabmeat, scallions and cayenne pepper to pan.
• Heat mixture but do not allow sauce to boil or it will break.
• Add pasta to cream mixture and toss gently so as not to break lumps of crab more than necessary.
• Spoon pasta into individual pasta bowls and using a cheese grater grate fresh bread crumbs over pasta.
• If you are lucky enough to have a truffle hanging around, shave it generously over the pasta for a totally over the top culinary experience!
• Serve immediately.
This column is a continuing series by Chef Peter X. Kelly of Xaviars Restaurant Group which runs every Thursday.
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