Our local Italian does a bang-up seafood linguini in rich marinara. For a while now I've been trying to get the balance right, and tonight I hit on it. Recipe serves 2 generously. Don't kill yourself getting the measurements precise, that is against the style. This recipe will produce tender, properly cooked shellfish in an aromatic red sauce. Except for a little olive oil and a dash of parmesan cheese, there is no fat in this dish.
Big handful bay/rock shrimp (small sweet shrimp, about the size of a quarter - these are always precooked and curled), thawed
Big handful bay/small scallops (between Chapstick lid and pool cue chalk in volume), thawed/fresh
1lb debearded mussels (only buy ones that close when you tap the shell, or, barring such invasive shopping techniques, never eat a mussel that needs to be pried open after cooking - if I can't slip the tip of my pinkie inbetween the halves, I figure it's been dead too long and wants to take me along with it)
a few tbsp olive oil
3-4 fat cloves of garlic, sliced into fingernail-thin cross-sections
sprig or two of rosemary
1 cup dry white wine, such as sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio (not chardonnay)
1/2 tsp dried red chili flakes
2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
Ripe tomato, roughly diced (it will cook down)
handful finely chopped parsley
8 oz or so prepared basic canned marinara/italian "spaghetti sauce" (have extra? Dip your pizza crusts in it on Tuesday)
1/2 lb dried linguini
Get the water going for your pasta.
Pour a few good glugs of the olive oil into a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic, chili flakes and rosemary sprig. Lightly muddle the rosemary with your wooden spoon to release its oils. Let this sizzle slowly until the garlic gets a little brown around the edges (several minutes). Add chopped tomato, stir, sauté for a few minutes. Pour in the wine, turn the heat to high, and reduce until a big whiff over the pan no longer smells like strongly evaporating alcohol (approx 5 mins - liquid should bubble rapidly).
Add your pasta to the boiling water.
After the sauce has reduced for 5 minutes, rinse the mussels under strong tap water and dump them into the boiling sauce base. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Check at 2 mins to see if at least 3/4 of them have opened. If not, check again in 30 second intervals until they have. Remove the mussels with tongs and pull the meat from the shell, placing it in a small bowl (discard the shells, which are difficult to digest). Return the sauce to a boil and stir in the prepared tomato sauce plus 1/2 the parsley. Remove the rosemary sprig and toss. Stir in the grated parmesan.
Drain the finished pasta and hold in colander.
Add the scallops to the simmering marinara, let cook for 2 mins. After 2 mins check one every 30 seconds to see if they've just cooked through (white all the way through, no translucent center). Do not overcook. Throw in thawed shrimp when scallops are almost done (they will heat through in the sauce) and stir in the linguini until coated. Throw in the mussels and a bit more parsley, toss delicately, and plate, tonging out the pasta first and then scooping out the more reluctant seafood bits on top. Hit each plate with a dusting of parsley. Et Voila.
NOTES ON THIS PREPARATION
Mussels are probably the toughest part of this if you haven't cooked them before. Cooking mussels well can take a bit of experience. Some cooks will take off the lid too early, see that none have opened, and call Poison Control. Some will burble away on their drug pipes and open the lid an hour later, only to find shells with little angry raisins inside. The ideal mussel almost has the texture and resistance of omelette egg. The rule of thumb is, never eat a mussel which hasn't opened, because they were dead too long and they contain deadly bacteria (which won't affect the rest of the mussels with whom they share a broth).
Writing shellfish recipes is difficult. This makes me want to pitch a show called, "CSI: SHELLFISH"