Oevery time I’m in Spain and I see al ajillo On the menu, I always jump on it; I guess any sauce simmered with olive oil, garlic and paprika must be fine. In Mexico, an almost identical dressing uses guajillo peppers instead of paprika. Chilli peppers, mild in spiciness and sweet in flavor, give a nice terracotta color to garlic oil, and I highly recommend getting some (they are easily found in line).
Crab pasta al ajillo
Riccioli is a tightly rolled pasta shape that captures crab sauce well, but fusilli work well too.
Preparation 5 minutes
To cook 15 mins
3-4 guajillo peppers (or other mild to medium dried chili pepper)
Salt and black pepper
300g short pasta – I like riccioli or fusilli
80ml extra virgin olive oilplus extra for watering
5-6 large garlic clovespeeled and thinly sliced
200g of crabwhite and dark meat
A large handful of parsleyfinely chopped leaves (save the stems for another use)
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Remove and discard the stems and seeds from the peppers, then cut the flesh into thin rounds or strips (I use scissors). Thinly slice the garlic and finely chop the parsley leaves, reserving the stems for a pesto or salsa.
Bring a large pot of water to boil, add half a teaspoon of salt and, once boiling, add the pasta. Cook for as long as indicated on the package, while you heat bowls of pasta.
Heat a wide, deep sauté pan over medium heat and, after a few minutes, pour in the oil and heat it briefly (it shouldn’t be too hot or you’ll burn the garlic and chilies). Add the garlic, cook for a minute, then stir in the chiles for a few minutes, until the garlic turns a pale beige color.
Now stir in the brown crabmeat and parsley and continue to stir until the crab has disappeared into the oil to create a creamy sauce. Grate over the lemon zest and squeeze half the lemon juice. Taste and season.
The pasta should now be al dente. Drain, reserving half a cup of the cooking water and pour the pasta into the crab sauce with half the white crab meat. Stir for a few minutes, adding enough cooking water to create a shiny, emulsified sauce.
Divide the pasta between bowls and garnish with the remaining white crabmeat, a grind of black pepper, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a final squeeze of lemon. Eat immediately.
Ditch the crab and instead do espinacas al ajillo by wilting spinach in garlic and chili oil before tossing it into the pasta. Add some toasted seeds for crunch. You can also use Swiss chard or nettles.