From The Glorious Pasta of Italy (Chronicle Books, 2011)
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- Large pinch of saffron threads, pounded to a powder
- 1 tablespoon curry powder (preferably spicy)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
- 1 fresh bay leaf
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 3/4 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 pound dried spaghetti
- 12 mussels, well scrubbed and debearded if necessary
- 16 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 6 ounces frozen shelled cooked langoustine tails (see Cook's Note)
Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and salt generously.
In a frying pan large enough to hold all of the seafood, warm the olive oil and butter over medium heat. When the butter is melted and begins to sizzle, add the onion and stir to coat with the oil and butter. Saute, stirring frequently, for about 7 minutes, or until the onion is softened but not browned. Stir in the saffron, curry powder, ginger, thyme, bay leaf, salt, and a generous grind of pepper, taking care to incorporate all of the herbs and spices. Stir in the lemon juice, raise the heat to medium-high, and pour in the wine. Let the sauce simmer briskly for about 3 minutes, or until slightly thickened. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the cream. Bring the sauce back to a very gentle simmer. If the pasta water is not yet boiling, reduce the heat under the sauce to low and wait until the pasta boils.
Add the pasta to the boiling water, stir to separate the noodles, and cook according to the manufacturer's instructions until al dente. Once the pasta is in the water, proceed with finishing the sauce.
Add the mussels, shrimp, and langoustine tails to the simmering sauce, cover, and cook for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the mussels open, the shrimp are just cooked through, and the langoustine tails are heated through. Discard any mussels that don't open.
Drain the pasta into a colander set in the sink, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking water. If the frying pan is large enough to contain both the pasta and the sauce, add the pasta to the frying pan and gently toss the pasta and sauce to combine thoroughly, adding a splash or two of the cooking water if necessary to loosen the sauce. If the frying pan is not large enough, return the pasta to the pot, add about two-thirds of the sauce, toss to combine thoroughly, and then top with the remaining sauce when serving. Transfer the dressed pasta to a warmed serving bowl or shallow individual bowls. If you are preparing individual servings, be sure to divide the seafood evenly among them. Sere immediately.
Cook's Note: Much of the shellfish available these days is farm raised and therefore contains less dirt and grit than shellfish harvested from the wild. To clean mussels, scrub their shells with a stiff brush under cold running water. Discard any that do not close tightly when handled. If the mussels have beards, the fibrous tufts they use to hold on to pilings and rocks, you need to remove them. Using a towel or just bare fingers, grasp the beard gently but firmly and yank it toward the shell's hinge. This will remove the fibers without tearing the mussel meat.
Frozen langoustine tails lack the flavor of fresh ones, but they are much more readily available and they have a nice meaty texture that captures the sauce and absorbs its flavor. If you like, you can use wild rock shrimp instead. They are delicious, though more expensive.