Thursday, October 6, 2011

Ziti with Saffron, Crab and Mozzarella di Bufala

There are few things that I love more when it comes to cooking than a recipe that incorporates many of my favorite flavors.  Saffron.  Blue crab meat.  Mozarella di Bufala mozzarella. San Marzano tomatoes.  Combine all of these flavors together and the result is on one amazing pasta dish.

The great thing about this recipe is that any pasta could be used.  I used ziti, which originates from a word for "bride."  In fact, ziti was the type of pasta traditionally served at weddings in Naples, as well as throughout Campania and Sicily, hence the name of the pasta.  Other types of pasta,  such as fettuccine, linguine, orecchiette and penne, could also work well this this dish.  

One other alternative to this recipe is that it could be baked in an oven for a few minutes.  If one decides to do this, the ziti should be taken out of the water a couple minutes early and then added to an oven set at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. I would only bake it for a few minutes, just long enough for the cheese to melt. 

However, I think that this dish is great without baking it.  Clare loved this dish so much that she wants to have it on special occasions, such as Thanksgiving.  I think I can accommodate that request, although it will most likely create a conflict in me pitting this pasta dish against the turkey. 

A Chef Bolek Original
Serves 2-4

3 cups of dried ziti pasta
3/4 pound of jumbo lump blue crab
1/2 teaspoon of saffron, rehydrated in warm water
1/2 onion, diced finely
2 cloves of garlic, diced finely
2 teaspoons of dried basil
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper
1/2 cup of white wine
1 can of San Marzano tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
Ground pepper, to taste
1/2 pound of Mozzarella di Bufala, diced
     (substitute regular Mozzarella)
Salt, to taste
3 tablespoons of olive oil
Fresh basil leaves for garnish

1.  Saute the onions and garlic.  In a deep pan, heat the olive oil on medium-high heat.  Add the onions and saute for about five minutes.  Add the garlic and saute for a minute or two more.

The saffron sauce before the addition of the blue crab meat.
2.  Add the other ingredients for the sauce.  Add the white wine and cook until the wine cooks down, which should take about two or three minutes.  Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, saffron with water and the herbs (basil, oregano and crushed red pepper).  Stir well and cook for about ten minutes.

3.  Blend the sauce.  Remove the sauce from the heat and spoon into a blender.  Blend until the sauce is smooth and return the sauce to a clean pan.

4.  Cook the pasta. Bring a pot of water to boiling over high heat.  Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente, which should take about ten minutes.

5.  Finish the dish.  Once the pasta is finished, drain the pasta and add the pasta to the pan with the saffron sauce.  Mix gently until the sauce covers the pasta.  Then add the crab and cheese, continuing to mix until the crab and cheese are distributed throughout the pasta.  Cook on medium heat until the crab is warmed through and the cheese begins to melt, which should take anywhere from three to five minutes. Serve immediately.

And, finally, a good friend of mine recently tried this recipe and offered some great suggestions.  She increased the amount of mozzarella to one pound, shredding half to mix wtih the pasta and using the remaining half to put on top with some parmesan cheese.  She then baked the ziti for fifteen minutes at 325 degrees Fahrenheit.  I definitely intend to try these suggestions when I make this recipe again.  Until next time, ...


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