Welcome to Italian-American Week, where we’re taking a bit of a break from our usual stories to focus in on the important stuff: Red sauce, stuffed pasta, porchetta and the chefs and home cooks making it all happen.
What makes the squid ink pasta at Trattoria Bianca in New York City so addictive is the perfect combination of fresh seafood in one dish. First is the most obvious — the whole shrimp, scallops and clams. Next is the sea urchin, which is blended into the butter sauce, and finally there is the squid ink. Chef Julian Clauss-Ehlers adds squid ink to the pasta dough, giving the strands a striking black color and a hit of salinity that ties the whole thing together.
Sea urchin butter
- 2 pounds sweet butter (room temperature)
- 1 tray fresh sea urchin roe (available at a good fishmonger)
- 1 tablespoon fennel pollen
- 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
Squid ink pasta
- 4 cups semolina flour
- 3/4 cup tepid water
- 1/3 cup squid ink paste (good fishmonger or specialty food store)
Pasta and finishing
- 5 ounces fresh squid ink linguini or spaghetti (see above)
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 5 grape tomatoes
- 2 jumbo shrimp (shelled and deveined)
- 2 large fresh sea scallops (cut in half)
- 4 littleneck clams
- 2 tablespoons sea urchin butter (see above)
- 1 tablespoon sweet butter
- Dash of extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the sea urchin butter:
- Place all the ingredients in the bowl of a kitchen mixer attached with a paddle, and mix well until all the ingredients have incorporated.
- Reserve 2 tablespoons of the butter for immediate use; reserve the rest of the butter in the freezer for later use.
For the squid ink pasta:
- Thoroughly mix together the squid ink and water.
- Place the flour into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment, add 1 cup of the squid ink/water mix and begin mixing the dough on the lowest speed.
- Gradually increase speed to medium-low and knead until smooth, occasionally stopping mixer to pull dough off hook, adding more liquid as necessary to make the right consistency of dough. Small “pebbles” of dough should form that kind of stick together but also break apart when pulled. Once the dough is ready, it can be used immediately for the desired size or cut of pasta.
For the pasta and finishing:
- Lightly season the grape tomatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in a preheated, 375°F oven for 5 minutes or so. Remove the tomatoes from the oven when they start to blister and reserve for later use.
- In a small saucepan, bring the white wine to a boil, add the clams and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Steam the clams for a few minutes until they fully open. Keep to one side.
- Fill a four-quart pan 3/4 full with water and add salt so it tastes like sea water. Bring to a rolling boil and add the pasta. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until the pasta is “al dente.”
- While the pasta is cooking, heat a sauté pan on the stove, then add a dash of olive oil. Sprinkle the shrimp and scallops with salt and pepper. Add them to the hot sauté pan, allowing them to lightly brown, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add the clams with half the clam juice, then add 2 tablespoons of sea urchin butter and 1 tablespoon of sweet butter.
- Add the tomatoes and the cooked pasta with a little of the pasta cooking water and cook everything together for a few minutes until the sauce thickens slightly. Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper if necessary.
- Serve in a pasta bowl; try to have the majority of the seafood and tomatoes showing.
Check out these pasta recipes on Food Republic: