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Meal of the Week: Eat, it’s your civic duty - Italian blue crab pasta

An Italian spin on an Atlantic favourite
An Italian spin on an Atlantic favourite Copyright Savin Mattozzi/ Euronews
Copyright Savin Mattozzi/ Euronews
By Savin Mattozzi
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As a way to curb the population of the invasive crabs, the Italian government is encouraging people to eat more blue crab. We're putting an Italian spin on this north American crustacean.

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Italy is struggling to keep up with an invasive species of blue crab that has taken over a large part of the north.

Native to the Western Atlantic Ocean, the Atlantic blue crab has thrived in lagoons in the Mediterranean as it does not have any natural predators. It is thought that the crab arrived in the Mediterranean via unfiltered ballast water in cargo ships from North America. This infestation has caused problems not just in Italy but in other Mediterranean countries like Albania, Spain and Tunisia.

The blue crab has been destroying shellfish production in Italy which is the world's third largest producer of clams after China and South Korea. Some estimate that the blue crab has destroyed up to 90% of young clams in the Po River Vally.

To combat this invasion, the Italian government has set aside €2.9 million to give to fishing cooperatives to reduce blue crab numbers.

The government’s other initiative is a lot less orthodox but quintessentially Italian: eat them.

Restaurants and homes across Italy are now experimenting with how to take this Atlantic food staple and adjust it to the Italian palette.

Today, we’re going to be adding a southern Italian touch by making blue crab with paccheri.

The sauce base of this dish is very flexible and does not need to be limited to crabs. It’s commonly used for a variety of seafood from squid to shrimp - so feel free to experiment with other kinds of seafood as well.

If you live in an area where fresh blue crab is not available or is too expensive, you can always use frozen crab as a substitute.

Let's get started.

Ingredients:

Savin Mattozzi/Euronews
ingredients for our blue crab pastaSavin Mattozzi/Euronews
  • 250g of paccheri pasta
  • 3 blue crabs
  • 4-5 piccadilly or cherry tomatoes
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • A bunch of fresh parsley
  • A bunch of fresh mint
  • 2-3 spicy chilly peppers
  • Salt
  • Olive oil

How to prepare it:

Rinse and wash off any seaweed or debris from your crabs. Heat up a large pot of water until boiling. Lightly salt it and carefully add in your crabs and let sit for 10 minutes.

When the 10 minutes is up, remove the crabs from the water and let them cool for about 15 to 20 minutes so you don’t burn your hands when you remove the meat.

When they are cool, remove the meat from the claws and from the belly, and set aside in a bowl.

This process is a bit time consuming and will probably yield less meat than you expected (I’m speaking from experience).

Savin Mattozzi/Euronews
Blue crab meat ready to be added to the sauceSavin Mattozzi/Euronews

When all of your meat is in a bowl, heat up a pan with oil, add chopped or minced garlic and your chili peppers. While you’re waiting for the pan to heat up, bring to a boil a clean pot of water for the pasta.

After the garlic becomes fragrant, add in your tomatoes, parsley and mint and lower the flame slightly.

Put salt into the boiling pasta water and then add in your pasta. You’re going to wait until about two minutes before the pasta is ready before you add in the crabs to the sauce.

Savin Mattozzi/Euronews
Mix in the crab meat to the sauce so it can absorb all the flavorsSavin Mattozzi/Euronews

Add in the crab meat and mix well into the sauce for the last two minutes the pasta is cooking.

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Drain your pasta and add it into the pan with the sauce and give it a good mix.

Scoop the pasta into a plate and add a little parsley or mint as a garnish, and you’re all set to save Italy. 

Buon Appetito!

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