May I have some more Mrs. Bocchieri?
The first time I ever ate lobster was when my mother prepared a meal for my brother-in-law Arthur, before he was my brother-in-law.
Back in the day, 1962 or so, one sure way to a man’s heart was through his stomach. Today, I’m not sure what a woman does to convince a man that she is right for him. For the most part, it’s certainly not cooking. My family firmly believed that if my sister was ever going to get married she would have to convince her suitor that she could do more than just boil water. And my mother did everything in her culinary power to convince Arthur that what he was getting if he married my sister was a prepared woman who knew how to feed her man. Or at least she came from a good blood line of great cooks. My grandmother and aunts also played a role in the sleight of hand.
Arthur would dine with us every Friday night, and the meal was always a seafood delight. I remember when my mother made this dish she made sure that Arthur got the whole lobster. My brother and father and I were usually left with a claw and the legs, which we learned was loaded with wonderful lobster juices that we would suck out….and we filled up on spaghetti. But we didn’t complain. My mother always made sure there were plenty of the cheaper and smaller Rock Lobster tails in the sauce so we could have “lobster tails”. My sister would always tie a dish towel around Arthur’s neck to keep his shirt neat and dry. If boiled lobster wasn’t messy enough, eating lobster cooked in tomato sauce takes on another whole dimension of splatter.
What made this dish great was the sweetness of the lobster roe and tomalley. They would melt into the sauce, thickening it and adding a briny sweetness of the lobster to every bite of spaghetti. It’s what makes the dish. Don’t discard it when you cut the lobster in half. Let it cook into the sauce.
Lobster Fra Diavalo
- Two 1 1/4 – 2-pound live lobsters
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, smashed
- 1 dried Italian hot red pepper, split lengthwise, or 1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
- 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 2 cups canned crushed Italian plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, undrained
- 2 anchovy fillets, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt for pasta water
- 1 pound spaghetti or linguine
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
- Freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste
You can place the lobsters in the freezer for 30 minutes if you have a problem killing the lobster yourself.
Turn each lobster on its back and, using a large knife, split it lengthwise down the middle starting at the head and cutting towards the tail. Spread open the lobster bodies and tails but do not remove the meat from the shells. Remove the eyes and antennae and scrape out the digestive sac, leave the tomalley and roe in the shell. Remove the tail from the body, leaving the tail meat in the shell. Remove the claws.
With the back of your chef knife, crack the claws and arm joints of the lobster.
Place a large Dutch oven or wide saute pan over medium heat. When the pot is hot, add the olive oil. Add the onions, garlic and anchovies and stir until the garlic just starts to turn golden and the anchovies melt away, about 2 minutes.
Add the tomato paste and stir to carmelize a minuet or two. Add the hot pepper and deglaze the pan by adding the wine. Next add the tomatoes to the pot and about two cups of water and bring to a simmer. Add the oregano and stir well. Simmer, uncovered, until the sauce has thickened, 6 to 7 minutes. Taste and season with additional dried pepper, to taste.
Add the lobster claws , tails and body to the sauce, cover and simmer until the lobster is cooked through, about 5 more minutes.
In the meantime fill a pot with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the salt. Add the pasta, stir, and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.
Transfer the lobsters to a plate and either reserve to serve on top of the pasta or remove the lobster meat from the shells, chop it, and stir it into the sauce.
Add the pasta to the sauce and toss. Transfer to a large serving platter and sprinkle with the parsley. If you didn’t incorporate the lobster into the sauce, place it on top of the pasta.
Serve family style with grated cheese on the side.