I could begin this post by professing my love for pasta. What powers it has on my palate, and what magic it has for lifting my spirits. I could tell you just how much I adore a fresh-made fusilli or fettuccine noodle with their ever-so soft and delectable ways. I could even tell you that there's pretty much no other food on this planet, that when prepared even by the hands of an average cook, can bring a smile to my face after just one bite. I could go on and on about my admiration for the Italian noodle, tossed in sauce and sprinkled with cheese. But I will refrain. Because I'm quite certain I've told you all of these things in one way or another, many times before.
I could continue this post by explaining my obsession with seafood, particularly shellfish. How silky and succulent scallops have their way with me, how tender and rich lobster tail instantly transports me to a food lover's state of ecstasy, and how scrumptiously sweet, and yet, oh so delicate crab can put me on cloud nine. You see, I could write a whole novel about my feelings on the most delicious creatures of the sea. But I'll refrain. Because I have other news to report today.
Fra Diavolo. It's the very first dish I made for Chris almost four years ago. Forget "Engagement Chicken." A whole-roasted bird has nothing on a spicy, homemade red-sauced pasta loaded with fresh shellfish. I do believe I owe my Fra Diavolo recipe a "thank you" for why I'm engaged today. It combines three of my (and Chris') most-loved eats. A vibrant homemade red sauce, mixed shellfish, and pasta galore.
I don't use canned crushed tomatoes and I don't use tomato paste either. When I cook fra Diavolo, the sauce comes straight from cooked down vine-ripened tomatoes, some white white, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and of course...plenty of fresh garlic. Also thrown in the mix is some sliced shallot and one hefty pinch of crushed red pepper. Because it aint fra diavolo unless it's got some serious kick. Fra Diavolo is a classic Italian dish but there are many variations out there. And maybe I'm biased but I'm pretty sure my version is the best I've ever had. After all, it scored me the man that I'll be marrying exactly one year from today.
Shrimp and Scallop Fra Diavolo
10 ounces linguine or fettuccine (I used fresh pasta but dried works just as well)
1/2 pound sea scallops
1/3 pound wild-caught, peeled and deveined shrimp, with tail left on
6 vine-ripened tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/3 cup thinly sliced shallot
2 tablespoons fresh, finely chopped garlic
2/3 cup dry white wine
4 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil, divided
1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper (or less if you can't handle a lot of heat)
2 bay leaves
sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
fresh basil for garnish
freshly grated parmesan cheese (optional)
1) Pat the scallops and shrimp dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle with salt.
2) In a large pan, bring 2 tablespoons EVOO to medium high heat. Sear the scallops (about 30 seconds per side) and transfer to a plate. Then, sauté the shrimp until pink and transfer to plate.
3) Add another tablespoon olive oil and bring to heat. Add the sliced shallot and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the chopped garlic and sauté for one more minute. Then, add the white wine and stir, scraping up any "flavor" from the bottom of the pan. Add the chopped tomatoes, crushed red pepper, bay leaves, a sprinkling of salt, and some cracked black pepper. Bring to a light boil for 5 minutes. Turn heat down to low and let the sauce simmer and cook down for about 20 minutes.
4) While the sauce is cooking bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. When the sauce has been cooking for about 10 minutes, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to package directions.
5) Drain the pasta and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil. To the sauce add back in the shrimp and scallops (and all their juices on the plate) as well as the mussels. Make sure the mussels are completely submerged in the sauce. When the mussels open, transfer them to a plate. Add all of the pasta to the pan and toss in the sauce until completely coated.
6) Plate the pasta and top with mussels. Sprinkle with chiffonade basil and freshly grated parmesan. Enjoy!
***Makes 2 large portions or 4 smaller sized portions.