Spaghetti Al Farouk: Test Kitchen Tuesday

Simple Italy is a blog that I follow (yes, it does feed my inner Italian) and when this recipe arrived in my inbox this morning, I instantly found inspiration for Test Kitchen Tuesday.  I simply cannot wait to try this dish!  It is no secret that we love Italian food, but Spaghetti Al Farouk is not the usual Italian fare. Curry, ginger, and thyme hint of cuisine farther east of the Abruzzo coastline, which the story behind this dish bears out.

The recipe comes from the newly released cookbook by Domenica Marchetti, The Glorious Pasta of Italy (Chronicle Books, 2011), and though I haven’t had the pleasure of sifting through its pages, this recipe sure makes me want to as soon as possible. Domenica describes this dish in this way, “The platter that came to the table was alive with color—deep yellow from the curry and saffron, and bright orange and red from the shellfish, with splashes of glossy black from the mussel shells. The sauce was rich, spicy, and earthy; the seafood was briny and sweet.”

I hope you join me in this delicious adventure!

In the next week or so:

1.  Make the recipe (posted below)
2.  Leave a comment describing your experience, opinion, adjustments, or suggestions.  ♥ If you do focus on altering it to economize, choose healthier ingredients or techniques, make it gluten-free/allergy sensitive, embellish for entertaining, or incorporate into batch/once-a-month cooking, please mention that too.
3.  Subscribe to comments so you can see what others have done.
4.  If you are especially proud of your creation, snap a photo and send it to me at so it can be included in this post or include a link to your site with your comment

Spaghetti Al Farouk

Recipe Author: Domenica Marchetti
Source: Simple Italy
Serves: 4-6
2      tablespoons  extra-virgin olive oil
1       tablespoon  unsalted butter
1       large  yellow onion — chopped
large pinch  saffron threads — pounded to a powder (see cook’s note)
1        tablespoon  curry powder — (preferably spicy)
1/2     teaspoon  ground ginger
1/4     teaspoon  minced fresh thyme
1        fresh bay leaf
1/2     teaspoon  kosher or fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Juice of 1/2 lemon
3/4     cup/180 ml dry white wine
1        cup/240 ml heavy/double cream
1        pound/455 g dried spaghetti
12     mussels — well scrubbed and debearded if necessary (see cook’s note)
16      large  shrimp/prawns — peeled and deveined
6       ounces/170 g frozen shelled cooked langoustine tails– (see cook’s note)

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and salt generously.

In a frying pan large enough to hold all of the seafood, warm the olive oil and butter over medium heat. When the butter is melted and begins to sizzle, add the onion, and stir to coat with the oil and butter. Sauté, stirring frequently, for about 7 minutes, or until the onion is softened but not browned. Stir in the saffron, curry powder, ginger, thyme, bay leaf, salt, and a generous grind of pepper, taking care to incorporate all of the herbs and spices. Stir in the lemon juice, raise the heat to medium-high, and pour in the wine. Let the sauce simmer briskly for about 3 minutes, or until slightly thickened. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the cream. Bring the sauce back to a very gentle simmer. If the pasta water is not yet boiling, reduce the heat under the sauce to low and wait until the pasta water boils.

Add the pasta to the boiling water, stir to separate the noodles, and cook according to the manufacturer’s instructions until al dente. Once the pasta is in the water, proceed with finishing the sauce.

Add the mussels, shrimp/prawns, and langoustine tails to the simmering sauce, cover, and cook for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the mussels open, the shrimp/prawns are just cooked through, and the langoustine tails are heated through. Discard any mussels that failed to open.

Drain the pasta into a colander set in the sink, reserving about 1 cup/240ml of the cooking water. If the frying pan is large enough to contain both the pasta and the sauce, add the pasta to the frying pan and gently toss the pasta and sauce to combine thoroughly, adding a splash or two of the cooking water if necessary to loosen the sauce. If the frying pan is not large enough, return the pasta to the pot, add about two-thirds of the sauce, toss to combine thoroughly, and then top with the remaining sauce when serving. Transfer the dressed pasta to a warmed serving bowl or shallow individual bowls. If you are preparing individual servings, be sure to divide the seafood evenly among them. Serve immediately.

Cook’s note: Saffron

Beautiful red-gold saffron threads (zafferano) are the dried stigmas of the purple-striped flowers of the Crocus sativus plant. Saffron from Abruzzo’s Navelli plain is among the best in the world. The spice is sold in two forms, powder and threads. The powder dissolves more easily, but it is also more easily tampered with. To be sure you are getting pure saffron, buy the threads and gently pound them to a powder before using. I use a mortar and pestle for pounding, but you can also press down on the threads with a heavy object, such as the flat side of a meat pounder or mallet.

Cook’s note: Shellfish

Much of the shellfish available these days is farm raised and therefore contains less dirt and grit than shellfish harvested from the wild. To clean mussels, scrub their shells with a stiff brush under cold running water. Discard any that do not close tightly when handled. If the mussels have beards, the fibrous tufts they use to hold on to pilings and rocks, you need to remove them. Using a towel or just bare fingers, grasp the beard gently but firmly and yank it toward the shell’s hinge. This will remove the fibers without tearing the mussel meat.

Frozen langoustine tails lack the flavor of fresh ones, but they are much more readily available and they have a nice, meaty texture that captures the sauce and absorbs its flavor.

Heading to the table -- dining outside makes it that much better!


3 responses to “Spaghetti Al Farouk: Test Kitchen Tuesday

  1. Saffron, ginger and curry powder on a Spaghetti, this sounds interesting

  2. Wow, I don’t know how it could get much better; enjoyed this dish last night with friends, outside on the deck, and it received rave reviews from everyone. It was delicious, a great discovery.

    Here’s my notes:
    1. added 2 large cloves of garlic (could have done more)
    2. doubled the sauce
    3. used only 1 pound of pasta which served 8
    4. doubled the number of mussels as a substitute for langoustine tails

  3. Pingback: Spaghetti Al Farouk: Test Kitchen tuesday

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