Choosing a favorite pasta is like choosing a favorite outfit: An obviously impossible task, and yet there are those you keep coming back to, riffing on endlessly until you’re sure you’ve exhausted all combinations, then still finding more to love. For me, that pasta is this briny, tomatoey, almost stewlike seafood number. (Please don’t ask me to choose a favorite outfit.)
I always start with a basic, lighter-than-usual tomato sauce, using canned, peeled tomatoes and thick garlic slices toasted in olive oil. I add a few hunks of mild, firm fleshed fish, to gently poach in the brothy tomatoes, and a few unpeeled shrimp, the flavor of their shells flavoring everything in the pot. (If you prefer shrimp that’s already peeled, that’s OK.) After everything mingles for a few minutes, it becomes the sauce dreams are made of, born to coat fat tubes or thin strands of al dente pasta.
The rest depends on my mood and on the type of seafood available when the craving strikes. I’ve made versions with fresh squid, cut into bite-size rings and simmered in the sauce; oily sardines seared on the side and served on top; and whole tins of salty anchovies melted into olive oil alongside a healthy pinch of chili flakes.
The beauty of this preparation is that it’s nearly impossible to overcook the fish, dry it out or get it stuck to the pan. The seafood also subtly flavors the sauce, making it taste far more complex than it ought to considering the number of ingredients you’re using. Think of it as a very casual, one-pot bouillabaisse with half the steps and done in a fraction of the time, and where just about any seafood is welcome.
Toss in a last-minute handful of crushed green olives, a smattering of parsley and a drizzle of olive oil, and you’re in business. If you were feeling especially in need of extra carbs, this is the exact dish you’d want to serve with toasted garlic bread. Use it to soak up any extra sauce while you polish off those shrimp, and think about how nice it is to have found your new favorite pasta.
Seafood Pasta With Tomato and Crushed Olives
- 8 ounces rigatoni or another tube-shaped pasta
- Kosher salt, to taste
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 4 cloves garlic, sliced
- Pinch red-pepper flakes (optional)
- 1 (28-ounce) can whole San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand
- 1/2 pound mussels or clams (optional)
- 1 pound firm-fleshed white fish, such as swordfish, cod or halibut, cut into 2-inch pieces
- 1/2 pound shrimp, unpeeled (although you can peel and devein if you like)
- 3/4 cup green olives, pitted and crushed
- 1/2 cup parsley, tender leaves and stems, chopped
Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain; set aside.
Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium. Add garlic and season with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic is lightly browned and toasted around the edges, about 2 minutes.
Add red-pepper flakes, if using. Add tomatoes, then fill the empty tomato can about 3/4 of the way with water. Swirl to loosen the tomatoey bits left behind and add that to the pot. Season with salt, bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, 10 to 15 minutes (sauce should still be brothy).
Add mussels or clams, if using, along with fish, and season again with salt. Let seafood settle into sauce and gently swirl the pot, so seafood cooks evenly. Cook a minute or two, then add shrimp, swirling the skillet again. Cook until all the seafood is just cooked through and the mussels or clams have opened, another 3 to 5 minutes.
Add pasta and very gently toss to coat, cooking another 1 to 2 minutes, just to let flavors meld. Add olives and remove from heat. Divide among bowls, top with parsley and drizzle with olive oil. Serves 4.
Nutritional information unavailable.