Seafood pasta aka zuppa di pesce aka frutti di mare. There are so many names and ways of preparing this incredible dish.
Seafood and I have a love/hate relationship. I’m allergic to shellfish, but I am obsessed with seafood. That’s why I am combining my love of seafood with my love of pasta and my love of not having an allergic reaction….
That’s why this seafood pasta dish is made only with mollusks (i.e. clams, mussels, squid etc). If you have a shellfish allergy, take this recipe with a grain of salt. Some folks with shellfish allergies can still be allergic to mollusks—it’s the luck of the draw.
Now let’s get cooking…
INGREDIENTS (FOR A PARTY OF 2)
1 lb of mussels
1 lb of cleaned squid
1/2 lb of clams
1 lb of cleaned octopus
8-10 Campari tomatoes
1 tbsp of salt
2 whole garlic cloves
3 tbsps of fresh parsley
2 tbsps of extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes
Pinch of oregano
I recommend cleaned squid and octopus because attempting to clean them on your own is an experience.
Start by washing your mussels under cold water. During this time, you’ll also need to inspect the mussels to make sure they are all still alive (sad, but this is when they are most fresh). One way to tell if they’re alive is if 1) their shell is closed tight and 2) if you run cold water inside their shell opening and they close. If you notice that the shell isn’t closing, toss the mussel. It’s not worth potentially getting food poisoning—trust me.
Place your freshly washed mussels into a cooking pot. Add chopped garlic and some fresh parsley. Cook covered on medium high heat for 10 minutes.
Once they are done, drain the excess water. You’ll know that they’re done once the shells have opened and they’re slightly more yellow/orange in color than before.
I like to peel off both sides of the shells and toss them in naked. But you could also keep one half or both halves of the shells—it’s up to you!
Set the mussels aside and grab a medium to large sized cooking pot. Cover the bottom of the pot generously in olive oil. Grab the Campari tomatoes and cut them into 4’s. Once those are cut, turn on the flame to a medium-low heat and add the 2 whole garlic cloves.
Pay close attention here as you’ll want to flip the garlic on both sides to make sure they’ve browned. The second that they have browned on both sides, remove the garlic. You can trash this garlic, it’s purpose is done. The flavor of the garlic has now mixed with the oil and any excess garlic would be too much.
Now it’s time to add your campari tomatoes. Toss them in and mash them slightly but not too much. The tomatoes will gradually dissolve into sauce over time. Add your salt, parsley and a pinch of oregano.
Cover and let this sauce start to form. You’ll want the tomatoes to be totally dissolved before the next step. Usually this is around 20-30 minutes.
Grab a medium sized pot and fill it with water. Turn the heat high and wait for a boil before adding your octopus. You can try cutting the octopus before adding to the water, but I find it easier to cut after.
Let the octopus boil for 20 minutes. This will help the meat become less tough.
Preparing the clams is very similar to preparing the mussels. Wash them off, check to make sure the shell is closed. Add to a pot and let the shells open. Gotta love the simplicity of mollusks.
Your squid aka calamari, will most likely not come already cut. So you’ll want to slice your squid “heads” into ring-sized bites (think calamari shapes here). The legs will not need to be cut because they will shrink a lot upon cooking.
Once your calamari is cut, add it to your sauce (only after the 30 minutes). The calamari can cook comfortably here while you wait to add the other fish/mollusks.
Now is the time when you can begin to boil another pot of water for your pasta.
Once the octopus is done boiling. Remove it and let it cool before attempting to cut. If it’s still too tough to cut, let it boil a bit longer.
Once your octopus is ready and cut, add it to your sauce. Let all of these ingredients cook for another 10-20 minutes depending on how long you have already cooked your octopus.
Once the water is boiling for your pasta, salt the water with about 1 tsp of salt for extra flavor once you’ve added the pasta.
Once the pasta is boiling, add the mussels and clams.
Now, the next step is completely optional. But if you want your sauce to be thick and insanely delicious like it came straight out of Naples, I highly recommend trying this step. Note that this is also hard to do in the first couple of tries and may take practice.
Cook your pasta one minute less than the recommended time for “al dente.” We want this to be very al dente.
Turn off the heat and dump 3/4 of the pasta water in the sink. The rest of your pasta and water is going straight into your sauce. Yup, I said it.
Once the pasta and water is in there, continuously stir and make sure your heat is on medium-low. What will happen is that the sauce will start to slowly thicken as the pasta continues to cook. The pasta (which should not be completely cooked by any means) will start to absorb the flavors of your seafood and sauce as it finishes cooking. The starch released from the pasta is what makes the sauce begin to thicken.
After 5 minutes maximum, take out your pasta and serve.
Let me know how your seafood pasta tastes in the comments!