When I was young, my mother used to make a seafood pasta we called spaghetti marinara, but it was a garlic & butter-based seafood pasta. Therefore I grew up thinking marinara sauce contained seafood (with or without tomatoes). It was only later that I realised this is not quite accurate. The word "marinara" is from the Italian marinaro (sailor), therefore many people assume the sauce contains seafood of some type. Actually, the sauce first originated in Naples after they were introduced to the tomato, and it was a meatless sauce made by the sailors. Most marinara sauces contain olive oil, ripe tomatoes, garlic and herbs.
The butter-based seafood pasta my mother made is still delicious though, whatever you call it...
Garlic-Butter Seafood Pasta (Mum's "Marinara")
250g spaghetti (or any long, thin pasta like linguine, or bavette (as in the photo)
1 bulb garlic (if you are not a garlic fan, reduce the amount to half a bulb, or less)
variety of seafood - I used 6 mussels, 6 prawns, 100g scallops and 170g clam meat (this was a little extravagant; you can cut down on these amounts)
10 - 20g butter
light olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
chilli oil (optional)
- Boil water in a large pot, add some salt and cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet (less one minute). When the pasta is ready, drain it, and cool it under cold water. Set aside. (Apologies to Italians who may shudder at this, but the cold water stops the pasta from cooking further...)
- Chop the garlic.
- If you are using mussels and prawns, scrub the mussels to clean the shells and devein the prawns. You can shell the prawns or leave their shells on, whichever you prefer.
- Heat up some light olive oil in the large pot (around 1 - 2 Tbsp) and lightly fry the chopped garlic on low heat, until the garlic is soft and fragrant, but not brown or burnt. Add the seafood (except the clam meat) in batches and fry in the garlic oil until cooked. Remove the seafood from the pot. This is to stop the seafood from over-cooking.
- Add the butter to the pot. Turn the heat up to medium. Add the clam meat and fry (the clam meat I buy are small bits of clam, therefore I do not cook them in the above step, as they would be too difficult to scoop up).
- Loosen the pasta with a little water if it has stuck together, and pour the pasta into the pot. Mix well to coat the pasta in butter. You can use butter or light olive oil here, or a mixture of both. This is one of the rare times I add butter to pasta dishes as it really improves on the taste.
- Gently mix the pasta and seafood. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Tips: If you like your pasta spicy, add a few drops of chilli oil (optional). This may sound odd, but it is like adding Tabasco sauce to pasta, which I find tangy and strange. Chilli oil, however, is perfect. The chilli oil I use is not the one which contains sediments of chilli inside, it, but a clear oil, like this: