I hereby proclaim this to be the springiest of spring pastas. And it’s flippin’ yummy.
I have a serious love affair going on with fresh lump crab right now. I mean, I always have, but the love has intensified recently. I can’t get enough.
It is normally a huge indulgence (hello, $30 price tag per pound), so we eat it sparingly and reserve dishes featuring fresh crabmeat for special occasions. But lately, I’ve been so into it, I’ve made a slew of recipes featuring it. My bank account hates me.
My favorite way to use crab like this is in very simple, not overworked recipes (see here and here). This pasta is the perfect example of that. It comes together in 20-30 minutes; really, it only takes as long as the pasta water takes to come up to a boil and for the pasta to cook. It has minimal ingredients but the flavor is INSANE. It’s light, fresh, and of course, delicious. It is the perfect warm weather pasta dish!
Long stands of bucatini pasta (a personal fave!) get coated in a super simple butter sauce that features garlic, shallot, red pepper flakes, lemon, and pecorino romano cheese. Now, if you are a purist and absolutely reject the idea of seafood and cheese together, you can just leave the cheese out. But I urge you not to! The cheese and crab are lovely together. The sweet, tender bites of crab tinged with the peppery, salty, and savory bite of pecorino. The flavors are totally in harmony.
Plus, the cheese gives the sauce that glorious melty, creaminess we all know and love. The sauce still manages to stay light and just barely coats the noodles, but that’s how I wanted it to be. Really, the crab is the star of the show. Weighing things down with a lot of sauce is not the way to go here.
Spring asparagus rounds things out nicely. It’s SO good right now, guys! Tender and sweet spring asparagus is something I look forward to every year, and using it in lighter pasta dishes like this one just makes sense. We’ve been eating asparagus a couple times a week recently.
For some reason, my brain combines crab and asparagus automatically. Like, when I’m developing recipes and I know I want to feature one of them, the other always comes to mind. I’m not sure why that is, but I think they have a natural affinity for one another. Which explains why the asparagus is here today. That, and it’s really fantastic this time of year.
Now, if you can’t find bucatini pasta, which is basically just spaghetti with a hole, feel free to sub with any other long pasta shape. Linguine would probably be my second choice. I think this type of light sauce works best with the longer noodles. I like to save the heavier, meatier, or cheesier sauces for things like rigatoni or penne.
That is totally my personal preference, though, so use whatever you like/have on hand. The bottom line is that this sauce is freaking good, and the pasta is just the vehicle to get the butter-cheese mixture into our face holes. Right?
1 lb bucatini pasta (linguine or spaghetti would also work great)
1 bunch of asparagus
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ stick of unsalted butter
1 shallot, finely minced
2 garlic cloves, grated or pressed
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 cup pecorino romano cheese, plus more for serving
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
¼ cup fresh basil, chopped, plus more for serving
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 cups jumbo lump crab meat
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and season liberally with salt. Add the pasta and cook, according to package directions, until just shy of el dente. During the 2 minutes of cooking, add the asparagus to the pot.
Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking liquid (I usually use a glass measuring cup to scoop out some water from the pot). Drain both the asparagus and the pasta. Thinly slice the asparagus into bite-sized pieces.
While the pasta is cooking, heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the oil and butter. Once the butter is melted, add the shallot and garlic and cook for a few minutes.
Lower the heat to medium-low and add the red pepper flakes, pasta, asparagus, cheese, lemon zest and juice, and basil.
Toss the pasta with the other ingredients until evenly coated, adding a splash of the reserved pasta water here and there to add enough moisture (you may not need the entire cup of water).
Add the jump lump crab meat and gently toss with the other ingredients just to warm it through. You don't want to completely break up the crab pieces; larger chunks are really nice here. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.
Serve the pasta immediately, garnished with additional cheese and basil.