A down-home delicacy, Italian style

Chef Mario Batali shares a recipe for crayfish and bucatini.
By Mario Batali Modified: June 26, 2012 at 12:20 am •  Published: June 27, 2012
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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 crayfish, one of the Gulf area's beloved crustaceans, is no exception.

Crayfish 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 crayfish is edible. In this recipe, I use tail meat.

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

Frozen soft-shell crayfish 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 crayfish 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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BUCATINI WITH CRAYFISH, JALAPENO AND BASIL

Serves 8 to 10 as a first course, 6 as a main course.

5 pounds crayfish, boiled, cooled, tails removed and shells discarded to yield 8 ounces shelled tail meat (or use 8 ounces frozen crayfish tail meat from our Gulf regions, thawed)

¼ 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

1½ pounds bucatini pasta

½ cup fresh basil leaves

Grated zest of 2 lemons

Pick through the crayfish tail meat and discard any extra bits of shell.

Bring 8 quarts of water to a boil in a large pasta pot.

In a 14-inch saute pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. 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 ¼ cup of the cooking water into the tomato-jalapeno sauce, and add the crayfish to the sauce too.

Drain the pasta in a colander and add it into the crayfish 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.

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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