Recipe inspiration can come in a multitude of ways. Sometimes an idea strikes about a dish I’d like to make so I start to piece together the recipe in my mind before tackling it in the kitchen. At other times I feel my way through the kitchen making something from nothing and writing down the recipe as I go. But sometimes I come across an incredible ingredient that I just have to buy, forcing me to create a dish around it – these are often my favourite recipes.
A short time ago I came across some incredibly beautiful looking scampi (the Italian name for the Norway Lobster – Nephrops norvegicus – also known as langoustine in France and the Dublin Bay prawn in Ireland and the UK). For those who aren’t familiar with scampi it is akin in looks to a large prawn but is actually related to the lobster family and more closely resembles its big brother in flavour and texture. It seems to be one of the most underrated and unknown crustaceans – which is a shame because they are delicious.
For those who think scampi are just breaded and fried prawns I promise you they are not. And to prove it, I took some photos of the gorgeous scampi I managed to get my hands on for you below.
When deciding on a dish to surround this beautiful creature, it just had to be a pasta dish. I had been sent some incredible lemon pasta made by Rustichella d’Abruzzo artisan pasta makers a few months ago from Enoteca Sileno in Melbourne and I had been waiting for just the right dish to use it in (if, like me, you aren’t in Melbourne, they have a massive online store filled with wonderful Italian goodies which they send around Australia).
Now seems like the perfect side note for a little information around the difference between fresh and dry pasta, and the artisanal pasta producers in Italy. One would be forgiven for thinking that, when it comes to pasta, fresh is always better. This is in fact not the case – fresh and dry pasta are quite different from each other and lend themselves to different uses.
Fresh pasta is made simply by creating a dough of eggs and high-gluten ’00’ flour which is kneaded and pressed through rollers till it is thin enough for the type of pasta being made. Fresh pasta is best used with delicate and simple sauces where the pasta’s texture truly shines. In contrast, dry pasta is made from finely ground semolina flour and water. It is mixed into a paste and then pushed through molds to make pasta shapes like penne, rigatone, fusilli etc. It is then dried at low temperatures for a few days until the moisture is gone, and can them be stored for long periods of time. Dried pasta is best used for strong and bold flavours.
Artisanal dried pasta (like the Lemon pasta below from Rustichella d’Abruzzo) is made using the finest ingredients with traditional age-old methods, which includes pushing the semolina paste through bronze molds instead of the teflon molds used by more mainstream dried pasta makers. The bronze mold causes the pasta to have a rough texture which perfectly holds on to oils and sauces.
For this scampi pasta dish, I’ve taken the shells of the scampi and made a flavourful chilli scampi oil (here’s to not wasting any portion of this great crustacean) which I’ve simply tossed through the pasta with Italian parsley and topped with grilled scampi tails brushed with a garlic parsley butter.
Lemon Pasta with Grilled Scampi and Scampi Oil
- 12 Raw Scampi, 8 shelled and de-veined and 4 heads removed and butterflied with shells retained
- 2 cups olive oil
- 1 tablespoon dried chilli
- 60g butter, softened
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped continental parsley
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 250g dried lemon fettuccine (I used the Rustichella d'Abruzzo brand)
- Handful continental parsley leaves, roughly torn
- Salt and pepper
Place the 2 cups olive oil in a medium saucepan and add the scampi shells and the dried chilli flakes. Take a metal spoon or metal potato masher and crush the shells a few times to release their flavour. Bring the oil to a boil and then reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. Every 10 minutes, crush the shells in the oil again. After 30 minutes, strain the oil through a sieve and discard the shells. Set aside.
Combine the butter, chopped parsley and garlic in a small bowl and stir till well combined. Brush both sides of the scampi flesh with the parsley butter then set aside till ready to cook.
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and at the same time heat a large grill pan. Add the lemon pasta to the boiling water and cook for as long as the packet states or until al dente.
As the pasta goes into the the water, add the scampi to the grill pan and cook for a few minute each side, or until the flesh turns from transparent to opaque.
Drain the pasta and add back to the large pot with a three tablespoons of the chilli oil, the torn parsley leaves, cooked shelled scampi and freshly ground salt and pepper to taste, then stir till well combined. Divide between two bowls, top with two butterflied scampi each and enjoy.