Linguini with crab

Linguine with crab


The Spanish consume the largest amount of fish in Europe (43 kg per person/year compared to 18 kg on average in the UK); they also have the highest life expectancy in Europe (the UK ranks 12th). Of course there are many possible confounding factors at play here – other things that Spanish people do more than the rest of Europe include drinking vermouth for breakfast and killing bulls with swords – but I’m betting seafood has a causal role.

A Coruna fish market

The Spanish eat seafood at least 3 times a week, equally at home or in a restaurant. In the UK, seafood is eaten at best once a month, and usually in a restaurant. This despite the UK being a major harvester of seafood, landing some 600,000 tonnes of seafood in 2011. That year the UK fishing industry exported 17, 000 tonnes of scallops, 19,000 tonnes of crab, and 15,000 tonnes of prawn to overseas customers; British families, meanwhile, consumed 900 tonnes of fish fingers.


Almost half of all Spain’s seafood is caught off the coast of Galicia. A Coruna, the regions largest town, has the second biggest fish market in the world (after Tokyo). Not surprisingly, seafood is everywhere in A Coruna, its mostly cheap and very good quality.  Seafood is rarely abundant and affordable, so when it is one is obliged – morally, economically, gastronomically – to eat it every day, in large quantities. The following recipe, for spider crab linguine, was tested in Coruna and takes advantages of these favourable local circumstance. Crab linguine can be a losers game of hunting for flecks of crab amid mounds of bland pasta. No such worries in Galicia. This recipe allows for 1 spider crab per person.


Quantities per person

1 Medium to large spider crab

2 cloves garlic

large clump of parsley

Half a lemon (juice + zest)

1 tablespoon each of olive oil + butter (ie enough for frying garlic and chilli, then coating pasta)

1 serving linguine (spaghetti is fine, unless you are Italian)

White wine (Albarino, if in Galicia). Essential accompaniment


1. Kill and boil the spider crab and extract meat

There are plenty of links out there for how to deal with a spider crab. Try Mitch Tonk [link]. The only additional advice to add from experience is this: when driving back from the fish market, don’t leave the spider crab in an unsealed bag on the passenger seat because there is a very high risk of crashing the car when the crab wakes up with the heat and starts to crawl out of the bag.

IMG_0381 IMG_0384

Two considerations: (1) Brown meat. Some recipes call for it, in which case it should be thrown in a minute or so after the garlic and cooked for another minute, but to my taste its too indelicate and I recommend setting aside for another use; (2) Legs. If the crab is not large and you don’t have a full crustacean surgical kit, I’d suggest only extracting the easiest meat, then bashing the rest up and simmering into a stock. This should be done anyway, but how much time you invest in wrestling the meat out of the legs is a matter of judgement.


3. Cook the pasta 

Cook until 1 minute before al dente. Drain.


4. The rest

Fry the garlic in the oil and butter for 1 minute, add the chilli and lemon zest, cook for another 30 seconds or so, then take off the heat.


Add the pasta, half the crab meat, the lemon juice and parsley and allow to sit, covered, for 2 minutes. Sprinkle the rest of the crab meat on top and serve. With wine.



Some recipes suggest adding white wine at step 4, but I think wine plus lemon juice is too much acidity for this delicate dish, and also too much liquid. Wine is a good addition to the otherwise similar spaghetti with clams [LINK], which because of the clam juice is better thought of as a soup, but for this dish wine is better served on the side, ie in a glass.


Similarly, there’s a compelling argument to be made for adding crab stock, but again I’m not keen on too much liquid. Stock of course has to be made anyway to extract the maximum crabby goodness, but this can be put to other uses, such as paella.


All the other additions you may read about – onions, tomatoes, greens – are just padding, occupying a precious space where crabmeat should be.

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