Can't stop the momentum now! We are on Great Missed Dish #4 of 2009, Crab Tomato & Butter Spaghetti Rigati. To begin this story we have to go back in time to my senior year of high school in Naples, FL. I moved to Naples from PA at sixteen to live with my Dad and spend some quality time with the Irish side, the large and loving Joyce family. After working for my Uncle Jimmy's lunch truck and catering business after school and on weekends as the general commissary slave doing everything from cleaning, to stocking, to catering, to cooking, to bringing the boss man his money at the close of every business day, I left the family biz for the greener pastures of busing tables at a local seafood joint gem, Cafe De Marco.
This job had its share of ups and downs. The restaurant was a converted home and was beyond cramped. Seriously, this place could easily be in Manhattan judging it solely on the non-existence of wiggle room for guests and staff alike. Plus, I had to wear a bow tie and cumber bum. Ugh, down definitely. But, the food, the food! The food was beyond magnificent. Cafe De Marco was my first working exposure to great food and it is still my measure of excellence for lobster bisque. If you are ever in Marco Island, FL you MUST stop by Cafe De Marco for Lobster Bisque, Jumbo Prawns, and the Cafe De Marco Puff. This dessert was so popular, people would call-in orders two, three, four to-go! You have to see this beast to believe it.
Of course eating the food was a major perk but reeking of it after work every day was a major bummer. While complaining at school that I should never have left my uncle's business because I constantly smell of seafood and I had to work NYE 2000 until 2AM (still a bit pissed about that), my friend Justin told me his job was hiring hostesses. Campiello's on 3rd Avenue is in the swanky, upscale beach neighborhood of Naples and I fell in love with the four-dining room, Tuscan-inspired restaurant instantaneously. It was fate. I was hired and our love affair began. Campiello's food took my recognizable Italian food and kicked it in the face with mega, fresh, modern flavors. Over the next year I came to know and love the indoor/outdoor bar and restaurant with two courtyards, a lounge, full open kitchen, and a store providing hand-made Italian goods from scarves to luggage. It felt as close to the best of Italy and Italian culture as I could get in Florida, and I drank up every last moment. As I moved from hostess to Maitre D', I also intimately came to know the Campiello food. Spicy calamari with a lemon aioli, homemade fresh everyday over-sized garlic potato chips, and the tomato basil crab linguine were and still are stellar and my favorite dishes.
Often while in college (the only reason I left Campiello's), I would consider dropping out just to go and work there again. Needless to day the restaurant has a huge place in my heart and when I can't make it there, I yearned most of all for the Linguine with Crab, Tomato, and Basil. Not one of their more complicated dishes, this pasta is packed with true and huge flavors of crab, tomato, basil, and butter. To me, it is simply sublime. I can salivate only over the thought of it. Fast-forward to present day and I am aching over this dish and this time I decided to do something about it-I'm going to make it myself.
Well, it wasn't just for me. I also wanted to show-off how good of a cook I've become over the past year so I planned my Crab Tomato & Butter Spaghetti Rigati as the main course for Pete and I's two year anniversary dinner. Knowing full well Pete can't eat a lot of tomato without serious agita, I went for it thinking I could use just enough tomato to where it wouldn't make this stomach explode and the dish would still be killer. Here is the vague recipe for yet again, I did not write this down.
Serving : 2
- 1/2 lb. Spaghetti Rigati
- 1/2 lb. lump crab meat, fresh is preferred.
- 1/2 lb. butter
- 3-4 medium vine-ripened tomato
- 1 medium sweet onion
- 4 garlic cloves
- 6-8 large basil leaves, chopped. Reserve smaller leaves for garnish.
- Core and coarsely chop tomatoes. I did mine in the food processor. Set aside.
- Quarter onion, set aside.
- Begin melting butter in large saucepan over medium-low heat. Once the butter is melted add a handful of crab meat, a tablespoon of chopped basil, and onion quarters. Let cook about 5 minutes.
- Add chopped garlic cloves. Let cook another 2-3 minutes.
- Add the chopped tomatoes all at once. Turn heat up to medium. Let cook and reduce to a simmer for 5-7 more minutes.
- Start the water for the pasta. Add pasta when water begins to boil.
- Add the remainder of the crab meat and chopped basil to the tomato and butter sauce. Let cook another 4-5 minutes on a low simmer.
- Drain the pasta.
- Mix the sauce and pasta together, garnish with small basil leaves, and serve with grated pecorino romano cheese!
Upon a trip to Lombardi's Seafood in Winter Park, FL I was distraught to find all the fresh lump crab meat sold out! I had to settle for the canned version. Seaweed salad for the side, of course.
Chopped, fresh tomatoes.
Melted butter, onion quarters, crab meat, and basil for sauce starter.
Add the chopped, fresh tomatoes!
Let all the sauce goodness simmer together.
I am ready with my Spaghetti Rigati! Oh, and see my splatter-proof contraption? That inspired Pete to give me a splatter cover for Christmas. :)
In the end, my dish didn't pack the same flavor punch of Campiello's version but I have a pretty good idea why-fresh crab meat. Fresh crab meat and I think my version has a fighting chance with a few more minor, minor tweaks. Thankfully my expression of love was still shining through and Pete and I had a lovely anniversary.