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Saturday, May 10, 2008

Pasta Alioli with Lobster

To me, pasta alioli is like a more elegantly simple, and healthy, version of fettucini alfredo. People will go to great lengths to reduce the fat and calories in traditional fettucini alfredo, and along the way it becomes a sort of franken-sauce with all sorts of odds and ends and quirky substitutions. So before you reach for the partially hydrogenated defatted cream cheese for some franken-fredo, give this flavorful, natural and indulgent sauce a try.

My husband's near obsession with pasta alioli had rather unintentional beginnings. We were sitting on the balcony of our apartment in Accra Ghana during the first time he visited me there, in 2003. A fellow expat, Julie, had recently introduced me to 'zines, which to my mind are these amazing self-published expressions of dedication to free and non-corporate speech. Smack in the middle of this one zine was a call to arms: people put down those tasteless jars of marinara sauce. The zine author claimed that the only excuse was not having time, but even if you were short on time, you could always throw together a delicious and quick alioli with what you had on hand in the house. I showed Terry. He said, "Hey, we have all that stuff." And we tried it that night. And probably 100 nights since then. Because it really is delicious and easy. So I'm sending this one on over to Ruth for Presto Pasta Night.

In truth, we don't do this pasta with lobster every night of the week because we are afraid of catching the gout (too much lobster=gout. It happened to Terry's uncle). No, really it is because we can't shell out for lobster every night of the week. But after one particularly stressful and troublesome day of fieldwork in Ghana, I decided it was time for a little luxury. I stopped off at the store on the way home and lo, there was a fridge section full of lobsters. Some of them were as big as the Governator's biceps (and that is no hyperbole). But I settled in for a pack of mini lobsters.


Serves 2.

1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves garlic
1 dried red chili or red pepper flakes to taste
4 teaspoons half and half
1 Tablespoon Parmesan cheese
4 oz spaghetti
6 oz lobster, shrimp or crab meat
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Put two pots of salted water on to boil (one for the lobsters, one for the pasta). When water boils, add pasta to one and lobsters to the other.

Add butter and olive oil to a saute pan and heat over medium heat. While heating, finely chop the garlic.

When butter has melted, add the chopped garlic and the whole dried red chili or the red pepper flakes. The heat of the oil will activate the oils in the pepper to bring out the flavor, and the pepper will infuse the oil. Cook over medium heat until garlic is golden and fragrant. Do not allow the garlic to burn: if cooking too quickly, lower heat.

When garlic is golden, reduce heat to low. Add the half and half. Tilt the pan to mix the half and half in with the oil and butter.

When pasta is al dente, remove from heat and strain. Do not rinse. If using a whole dried chili, remove the chili before combining with pasta. Return the pasta to the pot it was boiled in. Pour the alioli sauce over the pasta. Toss to coat.

When lobsters are bright red and begin to float to the top of the pot, remove the pot from the heat. If you are not quite ready to serve yet, allow the lobsters to remain in the warm water until you are ready to plate them to keep the meat warm. Just before serving, remove the whole lobsters from the water. On a stable cutting block, use a large knife to cut off the tail. Then use the knife to crack a slit along the long side of the softer exoskeleton on the underside of the tail (if the tail is curved, the underside is the inside part of the "C" of the curve). You can serve the lobster in the tail alongside the pasta or remove the lobster meat and serve it on top a bed of the pasta.

Grate a few turns of fresh Parmesan cheese or some other pungent cheese. That way, instead of the cheese disappearing into the sauce, you get a few mouthfuls where the cheese is really present mixed in with a few mouthfuls that focus more on the sauce itself.

You can optionally serve some warm butter and garlic in small dishes for dipping the lobster. This is a bit decadent and totally makes my day. If you opt for this, provide approximately 1 tablespoon of melted butter per person. I like to sit a cup with the butter on top of the lobsters after I have removed them from the fire to slowly melt the butter with no fuss. But then again, when I made this in Ghana I didn't have a microwave, so feel free to use your own favorite butter-melting method.

Compare the wise indulgence of pasta alioli with lobster to the to this classic recipe for alfredo on

SG Alioli with lobster, per servingEpicurious Alfredo (no lobster), per serving


Scott at Real Epicurean said...

Looks great. Crab is in season right now, too, so a great little dish to use it up!

Ruth Daniels said...

What a glorious dish...alioli AND lobster, what could possibly be better.

Thanks for sharing with Presto Pasta Nights.

Peter M said...

Great pasta dish because you're not interfering with the taste of the lobster...I'm inviting myself over next week!

Katie Zeller said...

I made aioli the hard way, last summer...Just garlic and olive oil.
Wow! It was sooo hot... and sooo wonderful!
Now, I'm thinking toss that with pasta and lobster... heaven!
Decadent heaven!

Erin said...

Scott, this really is one of our favorite go-to dishes for something quick, easy and delicious, so you can imagine how many times we have experimented with adding what is convenient and in-season. Always good. Crab is even better than most.

Ruth, definitely delicious and you don't have to eat very much (because it still is rich) to feel really satisfied.

Peter, by all means, we'll save a dish for you ;). So long as I can have some of your fab greek cooking!

Katie-definitely wonderful. In my book its a natural pairing with pasta and seafoods. Hope you like it too

Laura said...

I mentioned my aversion to alfredo (in your risotto post) and lo and behold, you provide me with a very tasty looking alternative. Brilliant!

Laura Paterson said...

Lovely - I hadn't come across this one before, looking forward to giving it a go!

Erin said...

Laura, I hope you like it! It is really a staple in our house.

Kittie, bon appetit! and may I say those are some amazing, world-conquering boots you're sporting there.

Laura Davis said...

I made this for dinner last night and it was divine! Thanks for this yummy recipe!
I am going to add you to my favorite blogs list!

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