Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Adriatic-style seafood and pasta

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 Adriatic-style seafood and pasta A simple, delicious dish in the style of coastal Northeastern Italy.
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Adriatic-style seafood and pasta

Sweet scallops and savory shrimp in a reddish-golden sauce thickened with pureed vegetables, not fats and cream, scented with a hint of saffron and served over al dente pasta ... I can't claim absolute ethnic authenticity for this quick and easy seafood pasta dish, since it pretty much came into my head without reference to books or recipes. But its sunny color and delicate but complex flavors put me very much in mind of memorable meals enjoyed along the Adriatic coast from Venice to Trieste, so I'm comfortable claiming it as a "regional type" creation.

The thick sauce and bite-size seafood make this sauce work well with a variety of pasta shapes and sizes. I thought it was perfect with farfalle ("butterfly" or "bowtie" pasta), but it would work very well with penne or ziti or other short pasta, or long pasta for that matter. In the latter case, though, I would choose shapes in the medium thicknes range - linguine, fettuccine or thicker sizes of spaghetti.

This dish shouldn't need more than a half-hour or so to make - I suggest putting pasta water on at about the same time as you start the sauce, and by the time the water boils and the pasta cooks, your sauce will be done. A salad and maybe some crusty Italian bread is really all you need to make this a meal ... and wine, of course.

INGREDIENTS: (Serves two)

4-6 ounces (120-180g) farfalle or other pasta of your choice
2 tablespoons chopped sweet onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
Dried red-pepper flakes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 of a 14-ounce can peeled tomatoes with their juice
1/2 cup chicken broth
12 ounces (350g) tiny bay scallops
6 jumbo shrimp
1 tablespoon butter
1 thick "coin" sliced from fresh ginger root
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Pinch saffron threads
1 teaspoon dried basil
Black pepper


1. Put a large saucepan full of salted water on high heat, and while it's coming to a boil, start the sauce. Peel and chop the onion, peel and mince the garlic, cut the tomatoes into rough chunks, and measure out the other ingredients. I saved time by using peeled cooked shrimp, but if you're starting with raw shrimp in the shell, simmer or steam them until just barely cooked through, then peel when they're cool enough to handle. Rinse the scallops and pat them dry with paper towels or a dish towel.

2. Sautee the onions and garlic in the olive oil over medium heat until they turn translucent and start to soften; don't let them brown. Add the tomatoes with their liquid and the broth, bring to a boil and simmer for 10 or 15 minutes, just long enough to soften the ingredients and blend their flavors.

3. When the pasta water comes to a rolling boil, put in the pasta of your choice and cook until al dente, per package directions and your own observations. While the pasta is cooking, use a standup or stick blender to "buzz" the sauce to a smooth puree.

4. When the pasta is within 3 or 4 minutes of being done, melt the butter over medium-high heat in another sautee pan or saucepan; put in the ginger "coin" and cook it briefly to release its aromatics. Dry the scallops and put them in, searing them quickly, no more than 1 minute or so if they are very small. Remove and discard the ginger; add the tomato sauce and the shrimp, reduce heat to low, and simmer for another minute or two, stirring gently, taking care not to overcook the shellfish. Add the lemon juice, saffron and basil, taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed, and serve it over the hot, drained pasta.

MATCHING WINE: This combination of flavors worked very well indeed with the bold, citric-tart flavors of a fresh young New Zealand white, Allan Scott 2004 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. Just about any dry Sauvignon Blanc would be good, or if you prefer something Italian, go with a dry, aromatic alternative - a Tocai Friulano from northeastern Italy or a quality Soave would be regionally appropriate.

Want a copy that's easy to use in the kitchen? You'll find a simple, plain-text version of these recipes, suitable for printing, online at

If you have questions, comments or ideas to share about this recipe or food and cookery in general, you're welcome to drop by our Food Lovers' Discussion Group, where I've posted this article as a new topic, "FoodLetter: Adriatic-style seafood and pasta."

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Last week's Wine Advisor Foodletter: Turkey-prosciutto stacks with cheese (Dec. 2)

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Thursday, Dec. 9, 2004
Copyright 2004 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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