Recipe: California Lobster + Shrimp Aglio e Olio
I have this fondness for meals you can cook straight out of your pantry-- meals with ingredients that are almost always on hand, taste fresh, and still have a long shelf life. So it's no surprise that linguini aglio e olio is a meal I have made myself many times, particularly during the days I used to travel frequently for work. I could come back from out of town and know that I'd always have garlic cloves, olive oil, linguini, and chili flakes on hand. Cooking up a big batch of pasta always had a way of helping me settle into home again, of making the space feel instantly lived-in in a way a takeout meal couldn't.
Fast forward to the present day and this is still one of my most treasured recipes, always satisfying and easy to whip up. Recently, I had the opportunity to go lobster hunting and discovered it's an excellent recipe to keep on hand if you're not sure whether you're going to catch anything. (To avoid too much disappointment, keep some shrimp in your freezer to thaw out in case the lobsters aren't biting.)
A traditional aglio e olio recipe starts out by cooking garlic in olive oil to form the base of the sauce. Mine always includes chili flakes too because I'm a typical spice-driven southern Californian. If I have the chance to go to the grocery store, I always add a healthy dose of minced Italian flat-leafed parsley. But the real magic of the sauce comes from adding a portion of your starchy pasta cooking water to your sauce pot. The pasta gets tossed in the garlic, olive oil, chili flakes, and pasta water and the results are very satisfying.
If you stopped there, you'd still have an excellent feast of Italian comfort food created with just a few ingredients. But if you happen to catch a few lobster to cook up, the results are even more decadent. I also like to add some fresh seafood stock to the mix to boost flavor. If you want to cut down your prep time for this dish, keep a quart or two of seafood stock in your freezer to incorporate into the sauce instead of making it each time.
Extra virgin olive oil, 1/3 cup
Red chili flakes, 1.5 tbsp
Garlic, 5 heads, peeled and minced (*I use an aggressive amount, but adjust to your own personal tastes)
Flat-leaf parsley, 1 bunch, finely chopped
Parmesan cheese, 1 cup, grated
Linguini, 2 boxes
Kosher salt, as needed/to taste
Black pepper, freshly ground, to taste
Shrimp, one pound, shell-on
Lobster shells and lobster meat from 2-3 lobsters, reserved separately (use however much lobster you catch or what's available)
Butter, as needed for cooking lobster
rustic ciabatta loaf to serve with garlic butter
Fill a large pasta pot with water and bring to a boil. Season your pasta water with kosher salt to taste.
To make your seafood stock, peel shrimp and reserve shells in a small sauce pot with lobster shells. Reserve shrimp meat in a small bowl, season with a few pinches of salt and black pepper, and refrigerate until ready for use. Fill the sauce pot with cold water until shells are submerged. (If you do not have the lobster shells, you can make the stock with shrimp shells only.) Bring stock to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. (*Alternatively, keep a quart of stock in your freezer and defrost when needed...but always save any available seafood shells for making your next batch of stock.)
While the stock is simmering, cut lobster meat into even 1-inch pieces and set aside in a small bowl. Season with a few pinches of salt. Refrigerate until ready for use.
Separate minced garlic to reserve 1/3 of the amount for garlic butter for bread (optional.) In a large sauce pot, heat extra virgin olive oil and cook garlic in oil until fragrant. Add chili flakes and parsley, reserving a few tablespoons of parsley for garnish. Strain seafood stock (using a mesh strainer) into the pot with garlic and chili flakes. Allow mixture to simmer.
Stage your seafood on the counter next to a small non-stick pan so you can cook it just before serving. Meanwhile, add linguini to boiling water.
To cook shrimp, heat a medium non-stick saute pan and add a small amount of the seafood stock liquid to the pan. Cook shrimp and reserve for plating. Before pasta is fully cooked, use a heatproof measuring cup to add approximately 1/2 cup of the starchy boiling pasta water to the seafood stock mixture, stir and allow mixture to reduce. Continue cooking pasta until al dente and drain excess water. Toss pasta with seafood stock mixture, coating pasta thoroughly. Gently cook lobster in a small non-stick saute pan with a healthy amount of butter. Serve linguini in bowls with lobster and shrimp meat. Garnish with parsley and parmesan cheese.