Seafood Pasta Part 1

Tossing shellfish with pasta is a great way to learn to love the little guys … and get more seafood into your diet! 😉

Seafood School Lesson #6: Mollusks are loaded with protein.

Seafood Pasta
12-16 ounces of pasta, I like angel hair
3-4 Tbs olive oil
14-15 clams in their shells, I use Cherry Stone
14-15 mussels
12 shrimp, deveined and peeled
2-3 Tbs butter
1 shallot, minced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can diced tomatoes, optional
¼ cup white wine, fish broth, or vegetable broth
½ cup fresh basil, or parsley, or a combination of both
Dash of red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

Fill a pot with water, bring to a boil. Add mussels and clams, cook for 3-4 minutes or until shells open. (Make sure you discard any un-opened mollusks.) Drain, set aside. Cook pasta as directed, I prefer angel hair but you can use whatever you like. Once coked, drain and toss with olive oil, set aside. Over medium heat, saute shallot and garlic in butter, add tomatoes and continue cooking for about 3 minutes. Add shrimp, cook for 2-3 minutes or until they start turning pink. Add clams, mussels, wine, pepper flakes and cook for 4-5 minutes, covered. Add pasta to pan, toss with seafood mix, serve with fresh herbs and grated Parmesan. Enjoy!

A note about my recipes … most of what I cook isn’t a precise science. It’s look, taste and feel. And I encourage you to cook the same way. Add a little more of this, or a little less of that … and pay attention … and before long you’ll be a wiz at cooking seafood.

There are two generally defined types of shellfish: mollusks and crustaceans. Mollusks include oysters, mussels, clams, scallops, and cockles among others; and the more commonly known and eaten crustaceans are crab, lobster, crawfish and shrimp. Here’s a guide to the more recognizable types of mollusks including all you need to know about what makes them tick, if they’re good for your ticker, and how to purchase and prepare at home—for more on crustaceans, check out the guide to crustaceans.

drawing_musselsMUSSELS are, unquestionably, one of my favorite things to eat, but it’s only been fairly recently that I’ve started cooking them at home. I used to be timid, but now I know they’re beyond easy to cook. Best steamed or boiled, they take less than 10 minutes and are easily tossed into a large pot full of herbs, garlic and a rich tomato-based sauce or broth. When buying from the grocery, make sure they were stored on ice and only buy ones with tightly closed shells. A good fishmonger will sort them for you. Before cooking, be sure to lightly scrub the shell before immersing them into your final dish. Mussels are farmed, and harvested wild, on the upper portion of the East Coast up into Canada as well as the West Coast but the large majority, like many shellfish, come from New England. Nutritionally speaking, mussels have a tad bit more fat than other shellfish, but it’s still slight and the amount of protein far outweighs the fat content, literally. Here’s a great recipe for mussels.

drawing_oysterOYSTERS might be touted as an aphrodisiac—which is all fine and great—but they should be hailed for their high levels of minerals, vitamins and protein too. The typical oyster has about 2 calories and both wild-harvested and farmed get a thumbs up, so you can eat to your heart, and body’s content. My personal favorite are Blue Points from the Eastern U.S.

drawing_clamCLAMS are versatile. Most everyone’s had New England clam chowder—that’s the thick, creamy white version; the red, tomato-broth based version is known as Manhattan clam chowder—but clams can be used so many ways other than in a chowder recipe. They’re great mixed in with pasta, served on the half shell alongside other shellfish, and they’re delicious grilled in-shell. Steam clams the same way you would mussels, or, grill them (see below)—and with more than 20 grams of protein per 3-ounce serving, you can eat to your hearts content. Note, if you can’t find them fresh, look for packages of frozen clams; they work perfectly! The quahog, razor, little neck and Pacific-caught geoduck are the most common varieties and both wild-caught and farmed are good options.

drawing_scallopSCALLOPS are not all created equal. Of course not many things are, but when it comes to scallops, it’s the size that makes all the difference in the world (or in the sea). There are two main types of scallops: sea and bay. Sea scallops, which are caught in the sea, duh, can be nearly three times the size of bay scallops. Bay scallops are caught in—yes, you guessed it—bays and harbors and have, according to most connoisseurs, a sweeter flavor. Both varieties are low in fat and high in protein but they do contain more cholesterol than most seafood so eat cautiously if you’re watching your levels. Wild-harvested scallops and farm-raised are OK to eat so long as they don’t come from Peru. When purchasing in the store, look for U8 or U10—whcih means you’ll get around 8, or 10, per pound respectively. Read more about scallops.

drawing_cockleCOCKLES and mussels alive, alive oh. What? Am I the only one who knows the famed Irish song? Maybe so, but regardless, I’m sure you’ve at least heard of cockles. Although, most people I know don’t seem to know that cockles are indeed a real food, not just another name for clam or scallop. But while cockles are delicious and get a thumbs up on their sustainability rating, they’re next to impossible to find in the U.S. So if you get a chance to roam the same roads as the ill-fated Molly Malone, make sure you stop into a local fish shop and try a cockle, or two. Their tiny—think blackberry size—so you will want to order more than one … and if you do, let me know. Because believe it or not, this mermaid has yet to try one herself.

Coming up next … all about cod, what it is and what it isn’t (you might just be surprised!)—stay tuned as I continue to post daily lessons over the next few weeks where you’ll learn about a variety of seafood and some great cooking methods that will turn you into a seafood wizard-chef in no time. blog_subscription_form]

DISCLAIMER: I’m a writer and an editor. And I try my best to make sure every post is articulate and free from errors. However, being that I edit my own work—and it’s next to impossible to properly edit your own work—I admit, occasionally there may be an error or two I miss. But doing so doesn’t make me an idiot so don’t be mean. Just smile, pat yourself on the back for finding an error and be glad you’re not the only one who makes mistakes sometimes … yes, even mermaids slip up every now and then. xoxox