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Layered Pasta with Crab and Broccolini

Impress winter holiday guests with this amazing pasta dish, which showcases in-season Dungeness crab and broccolini. It makes a wonderful starter for a celebratory meal. You can prepare the pasta sheets from scratch or use store-bought pasta. To get a jump-start on this recipe, make the pasta and cook the crabs in advance.

Ingredients:

  • 2 live Dungeness crabs, each about 2 lb.

For the roasted broccolini:

  • 2 lb. broccolini, stem ends trimmed
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
  • Zest of 1 lemon

For the crab bisque sauce:

  • 2 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup cognac
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes, drained
  • 3 cups heavy cream

  • 16 fresh pasta dough squares, each 4 inches square (see related recipe at left)
  • 4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 6 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

Directions:

Choose a pot large enough to hold the crabs so they can be covered with water by 1 inch. Fill the pot to within 3 inches of the top with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Place the crabs, face down, into the water and return it to a boil. Immediately turn down the heat to maintain a simmer and cook until the crabs start to float to the top, 15 to 20 minutes, counting from the time you placed the crabs in the water. Transfer the crabs to a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Reserve 2 cups of the crab-cooking water; strain it and set aside for making the sauce. Discard the remaining water.

When the crabs are cool enough to handle, place each one on its back and pull off the small triangular-shaped shell flap. Turn the crab over and separate the top shell from the body by pulling from the back and lifting. Remove the dark gray intestines and the feather-shaped white spongy gills from the body and discard. Twist off the legs and claws. Crack the body, legs and claws and remove the meat, reserving the shells for making the sauce. Pick over the meat to remove any bits of shell. Refrigerate the meat, shells and cooking water until ready to use.

To roast the broccolini, preheat an oven to 450°F.

Arrange the broccolini on a baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat well. Transfer to the oven and roast until the broccolini is lightly caramelized but still al dente, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, add the shallots and toss to coat well. Roast for 1 to 2 minutes more. Remove from the oven and toss with the lemon zest. Let cool, then cut the broccolini into 1-inch pieces. Set aside.

To make the sauce, in an enameled cast-iron pot over medium-high heat, warm 1 Tbs. of the vegetable oil. Add the reserved crab shells and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add the cognac and simmer, stirring, for 10 seconds. Add the remaining 1 Tbs. vegetable oil along with the onion, celery, carrot and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for 6 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the tomatoes and the 2 cups reserved crab-cooking water and bring to a simmer, stirring to scrape up the browned bits. Simmer for 6 to 7 minutes, then add the cream. Simmer until the sauce is thickened, about 8 minutes. Strain the sauce through a fine-mesh sieve, discarding the contents of the sieve. Keep the sauce warm until ready to serve.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. If using the fresh pasta recipe linked here, cook the pasta sheets in batches, about 3 minutes per batch. If using store-bought pasta, cook according to the package instructions. Transfer the pasta sheets to a parchment-lined baking sheet and immediately arrange them in a single layer.

In a sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the crabmeat, season with salt and pepper and heat until the crabmeat is warmed through. Stir in the parsley and lemon juice. Reserve about 1 cup crabmeat for garnish.

To assemble, place 1 pasta sheet on each of 8 individual plates. Top each with about 1/2 cup crabmeat and 1/4 cup broccolini, then place another pasta sheet on top. Garnish with the reserved crabmeat, drizzle with some of the sauce and sprinkle with the basil. Serve immediately. Serves 8.

Williams-Sonoma Kitchen.