A Seafood Bolognese?
By definition, a seafood bolognese makes no sense. According to culinary tradition, a Bolognese sauce is meat-based and it’s referred to as ragu’ in Italy. It is cooked over low heat for many hours. And because it’s meat based, it reflects the cuisine of Northern Italy. This part of Italy is more fitted to support livestock and wildlife with its green pastures and woodlands. Also, the North borders Austria and France which also influences what they prepare.
There’s no meat in this recipe. Instead, a fresh seafood selection has been used which is a staple of the cooking of Southern Italy. Their selections reflect a Mediterranean diet. The pasta is also more varied as to size and shapes. Because Bologna is located between the North and the South, it would make sense that both areas would be represented in a recipe.
My recipe is based on a recipe by Larry Kanter in Food and Drink (December 2017) entitled Bolognese by the Sea. The three ingredients that make it unique are the pasta (lumache), pickled hot Italian peppers, and the optional grated battarga. All were available online.
Because I wasn’t able to get shrimp with the heads still on, I thought my seafood stock was a bit thin. I replaced some of the water with clam juice and Chardonnay. I also sautéed the shrimp shells in some butter/oil along with coarsely chopped garlic and shallots. This caramelized the shells which added more flavor to the stock.
It’s Busy But Worth the Effort
Many of the Italian recipes I’ve tried in the paste were quite simple. Not so with this one. You can take some shortcuts, but I wouldn’t recommend this approach. I know it’s busy, but all of the effort is worth it.
You may be concerned about the consistency of the liquid in the dish. It might appear a bit watery, but each taste is full of flavor. It’s best eaten in a bowl with a spoon. Serve this with a good baguette so you can mop up every delicious drop.
Bolognese By The Sea
1/2 lb.Lumache (dry about 2 cups) sub with rigatoni
1 lb.Fresh shrimp (preferably with head on)
1 bulbFennel (sliced in half)
2Shallots course dice
1 quartClam juice (4 bottles)
1/4 cupPeppers hot Italian pickled
2 TbspTomato paste
2 TbspBottarga grated (jar)
Ahead of time:
- Peel the shrimp and reserve shells.
- Saute’ the shells in butter/EVOO in a large skillet with high sides. This will caramelize them and add flavor to the stock. Add salt, and set aside.
Time: 20 Minutes
Cook the pasta in a Dutch oven, add 2 quarts water and a bit of salt. Cook al dente according to package directions. You can use any type of pasta. This recipe calls for lumache.
Drain and set aside in a metal bowl. Cover with plastic wrap to keep from drying out.
Remove shells from the shrimp and set aside. Dice the shrimp into 1″ pieces.
Saute’ the shells in butter and shallots in large high-sided skillet, and set aside.
To the empty Dutch oven, add the shells and heads, fennel, celery, shallots, thyme, tarragon, and the bay leaf. Cover with water, clam juice, and chardonnay. Cook on simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and drain into empty skillet and set aside. Discard solids and reserve the liquid.
Bring reserved stock in the skillet so a simmer over low heat. Add shrimp and cook for 3 minutes. Strain shrimp and poaching liquid back into the Dutch oven. Set aside stock.
In the empty high-sided skillet, heat EVOO over medium heat. Add hot peppers, tomato paste, and shrimp. Saute’ for 2 minutes.
Add 2 cups shell fish stock and pasta and cook for about a minute to heat through.
Remove from heat.
Add butter, lemon zest, juice, basil, and bottarga. Gently toss.
Note: If you feel the broth is a bit too watery, keep on the stove for another 5-10 minutes and some of the liquid will be absorbed by the pasta.
Serve in bowls with lots of bread (baguette) to sop up the juices.