A spicy tomato broth with chunks of salmon, curly shrimp, and meaty clams and mussels over al dente linguine is my perfect "Friday night dinner out."
Whenever my siblings are in town, I enjoy cooking their favorite dishes for them. So when my sister, who is visiting this week from her new home in Pittsburgh, starting talking about how much she was wanting a good Italian seafood dish I knew linguine ai frutti di mare was in order. I've actually never cooked fresh shellfish at home before, feeling a bit intimidated by byssal threads, shells, and sand, but having a request put in to The Cook and having a little leisure time on my hands, I decided to be adventurous and make this dish for her.
Living here in Santa Barbara, we have scores of fantastic restaurants. This means we also have some great wholesale providers. A couple years ago, I discovered Harbor Meat and Seafood, located in the funk zone on Helena Street. In addition to providing stellar-quality meats and seafood to the local restaurants, they offer retail to the public. It's a very wholesale-esque operation, however; you enter through one of the delivery docks into their butchering rooms and have to ask the nearest employee to assist you. If you enter the seafood room, watch out, as the floor is super-slippery from fresh deliveries and from the tank of live lobsters. When I went in today to get some Manila clams and local-caught black mussels, they carted in an 8-foot fish right past me. This really is a serious butcher shop and purveyor of meats and seafood--no display cases, no frills. Come in and ask for what you want, and know you're getting high quality and fair prices.
Ah, frutti di mare. The delightful fruits of the sea. We in my family are such fans...take my father for example. Every time we go to an Italian restaurant that offers cioppino or another such seafood dish, you can be sure that that is what he will order. But now that I realize I can cook this meal just as well as the local restaurant chefs can, not to mention that it costs a total of $30 for six people, I don't know how often we'll be going out for this again....
I'd recommend reading about how to clean shellfish before starting this recipe if this is something you haven't done before.
Linguine ai Frutti di Mare
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
4 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
1/2 cup white wine (I use pinot grigio)
1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup water
1 lb. salmon fillet, cut into 6 pieces
1 lb. Manila clams, scrubbed and soaked for 20 minutes in fresh water
1 lb. black mussels, de-bearded, scrubbed, and soaked for 20 minutes in fresh water
1 lb. shrimp, shelled and de-veined
minced parsley, for garnish
1 lb. linguine
Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add red pepper and garlic, and continue to cook until onions are soft. Add wine and let reduce by half, then add tomatoes and water. (I use the water to rinse out the tomato can and get every last bit of the tomatoes.) Bring sauce to a boil.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Salt the water with a handful of sea salt, and add the linguine to the boiling water once the tomato sauce is boiling. (Pasta should always be served al dente, and over-cooked seafood is tough! Therefore, be sure to coordinate the cooking times.)
Add the salmon to the sauce, submerging the pieces below the sauce, then add the mussels and clams on top. Cover tightly with a lid, and let shellfish steam for 4 minutes. Once the shells have opened, gently stir the shrimp into the sauce, lower heat, and continue to cook until shrimp are opaque and pink.
Strain the linguine from the cooking water and toss with a little of the sauce. Divide among six bowls and top with salmon, clams, mussels, and shrimp and with a few spoonfuls of the tomato sauce. Sprinkle with parsley and serve!