Aragosta alla Diavola
Spicy Lobster with Spaghetti
Adapted from a recipe by The Italian Culinary Academy. Reprinted with permission.
- Servings: 2 for main course or 4 appetizer-sized servings.
In this classic Italian recipe, a whole lobster is cooked in vegetable stock, then combined with spaghetti and a spicy tomato sauce. The sweetness of the lobster stands up to the flavors of hot pepper, garlic and bright canned tomatoes. The recipe is written with many detailed steps, but it's actually easy to make.
- 2 quarts (8 cups) vegetable stock
- 1 lobster (about 1-1/4 pounds)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
- 1 to 2 tablespoons brandy
- 8 oz. (about 1-cup) canned whole tomatoes, with their juice, puréed through a food mill or in a food processor or with an emersion blender
- 1 cup lobster stock
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 pound spaghetti
- Cooking the Lobster:
- You can either cook the lobster whole and cut it into pieces and remove the shells after it's cooked. Or else butcher the lobster, cut/break it into pieces, clean it, and then add to the vegetable stock. Cooking time is the same with either method.
- Bring the pot of vegetable stock to a boil. Add the live lobster or the butchered lobster pieces.
- To cook a lobster in boiling stock or water, calculate 10 minutes a pound. A 1 1/4 pound lobster will take about 15 minutes to cook completely.
- Remove the lobster from the pot and let cool completely.
- Reserve the vegetable stock.
- When the lobster is completely cooled, remove its shells (see below) and place the shells and heads back into the stock and bring back to a simmer.
- Shelling the Lobster:
- Once the lobster is cool enough to handle, and working over a bowl or pan to collect the juices and empty shells, twist off the lobster tails. Snap off the flipper at the end of the tails. Insert a thumb under the shell at the end of the tails and push the tail meat out. Remove and discard the roe (some consider the roe a delicacy; I don't so you're on your own).
- Twist off the lobster claws where they attach to the body. Pull the claws themselves off the "knuckles" that connect the claw to the body. Set the claws on a cutting board, cover them with a towel to prevent spraying pieces or bits of broken shell, and crack both sides of the claws with the back of a large knife or a mallet. Move the claw's pincers side to side and then bend them away from the claw while pulling them out. The feather-shaped piece of cartilage embedded in the claw should come out with the pincers. Push the claw meat out in a single piece.
- Twist apart the "knuckles" and push the meat out.
- Cut the tails crosswise into medallions, about 5/8-inch wide, and the other pieces to a similar size. Your goal is to have about a cup of lobster meat that's been cut into medium-sized (5/8-3/4") pieces. Don't cut them too small because they'll break apart in the finished dish.
- Reserve the cooked lobster meat.
- Reserve the juices and shells.
- Making the Lobster Stock:
- Split the lobster heads in half lengthwise with a large knife. Clean them of any debris or guts.
- Place the heads and legs, along with all of the shells into the reserved vegetable stock in which you've just cooked the lobster.
- If there is not enough vegetable stock to cover the shells, add water to just cover.
- Bring to a simmer and cook 20 minutes.
- Strain (discard the shells), taste and season with salt and pepper. You should have at least a cup of what is now lobster stock.
- Making the Pasta, the Sauce and the Finished Dish:
- Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil for the spaghetti.
- In a large sauté pan or skillet, combine the oil, garlic, red pepper flakes and half of the parsley. Place over moderately high heat and cook until the garlic begins to color at the edges (be careful to not burn or over-brown).
- Add the brandy and cook for 1 minute to evaporate the alcohol.
- Add the puréed tomato and bring to a boil. Immediately lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes to slightly thicken the sauce.
- At a pace of about 1/3 cup at a time, add ladles of lobster stock to the sauce. Cook for a few minutes to reduce and then gradually add more stock while you continue to simmer and reduce the sauce. Your goal is to have the sauce incorporate about 1 cup of the lobster stock while letting the final state of the sauce stay liquid enough to finish cooking the spaghetti.
- When the sauce is just about ready, add the spaghetti to the boiling water and cook until it is slightly less than al dente, or about two-thirds cooked. Drain the spaghetti and add it to the pan of tomato sauce where it will continue to cook, absorbing some of the tomato sauce (this will take about 2 minutes).
- Taste and adjust the seasoning.
- Toss in the remaining parsley.
- At the last minute add the reserved pieces of lobster. Your goal is to just warm the lobster meat, not cook it further. Gently toss to combine.
- Serve immediately.
Tip: Make the vegetable stock an hour or so in advance by simmering (uncovered) about 3 cups of pieces of celery, onion, leek and other green vegetables (don't use carrots as they'll tint the stock orange) in about 3 quarts of water. Add a pinch of salt, parsley stems and several whole peppercorns.
Tip: Like some other shellfish, a lobster must be alive at the time it is cooked. Dead lobster meat, even if you cook it, is toxic. Therefore you must have a live lobster to make this recipe.
Tip: Lobsters are sold with the claws bound in rubber bands. Leave the rubber bands on the claws when cooking the lobster.
Tip: If you don't want your hands to smell of lobster, wear rubber gloves while shelling the lobster.