Pasta alla Chitarra with Sea Urchin & Langoustines


I hope you didn’t have to put sunglasses on when opening this page. In an attempt to hide my lousy photographic skills i’ve been adjusting the brightness/color levels of my pictures. That’s something that i never done before. While it helped improve the overall quality of  my pictures,  it also exposed my tendency to get carried away.  It’s a medical condition that i think started when my parents refused to buy me that box of fluorescent markers when i was 7 years old. Later as a teenager in the early 90’s i started to rebel by wearing fluorescent David Bowie T-shirts and hanging out in night-clubs so that i became immuned to fluorescent lights. Now i’m at the point  i don’t know how much color is too much color and the Andy Wahrols originals hanging on the walls at work have only made my condition worsen.  Give me a color slider and i go nuts! I apologize if you were struck by the rays of zen, side effects usually include nausea, hallucinations, drooling and the occasional vomiting. If you’re starting to feel dizzy just sit down and drink a sip of water. If symptoms persists switch to NoRecipes.. or wear sunglasses. That’s what i do!


err.. Do you see what i mean?..

I wanted to make a pasta using sea urchin (uni) ever since i had a fantastic version at Esca. David Pasternack makes his using blue crab but i wanted to make a culinary fashion statement by switching to langoustines… Take That Pasternack!!  I made a langoustine broth with the heads that i reduced a bit to intensify its flavor, i pureed and strained the sea urchin in a food processor with softened butter and piment d’espelette and added it to the broth.  It immediately emulsified to create the creamiest of sauce: the mutha-sauce. It was deliciously flavored with shelfish and uni with the gentle heat of the piment d’espelette. I sauteed the tails separately before tossing them into the pasta sauce.


Pasta alla chitarra is a specialty of the Abruzzo region of italy. A Chitarra is the tool (instrument?) used to cut fresh pasta into strands. It’s basically a frame strung with music wire that looks just like a guitar, hence the name. Think of pasta alla chitarra as a square spaghetti with a rough edge, a texture that’s particulary suitable to this kind of creamy sauce. As a finishing touch i julienned some snow peas and kept them raw in ice cold water. Tossing them into the hot pasta is just enough to make them wilt a little which provides a great textural contrast and a crisp and refreshing touch. Enjoy!


  • Pasta alla Chitarra with Sea Urchin & Langoustines

    • Inspired by Esca
    • Serves 4
  • uni-pasta-7final
    • For the langoustine broth:
    • 6 to 8 langoutines, heads removed and roughly chopped. Reserve tails
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 small onion, chopped
    • 1 branch celery, chopped
    • 1 small carrot, chopped
    • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
    • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
    • 3/4 cup dry white wine
    • 1 small bouquet garni: thyme, parsley stems, tarragon and a bay leaf
    • 1 strip lemon zest
    • 2 cups water
    • For the pasta sauce:
    • 8 ounces fresh sea urchin
    • 4 tablespoons butter, softened
    • 1 teaspoon piment d’espelette
    • sea salt to taste
    • 1 cup langoustine broth (see above)
    • To finish:
    • langoustines tails
    • 2 tablespoons butter
    • salt and piment d’espelette to taste
    • a dozen snow peas, julienned
    • 1 lb pasta alla chitarra, or spaghetti


    • For the langoustines broth:
  • Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and add the chopped langoustine heads. Cook until they begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the onion, the celery, the carrot, the garlic and continue cooking until they soften and start to stick to the bottom of the pot.
  • Add the tomato paste and continue cooking for another 3 minutes while stirring frequently. Deglaze with the white wine and reduce until almost nothing is left. Add the bouquet garni, the strip of lemon and the water and bring to a boil. Simmer gently until you have about 1 cup of liquid left, about 20 minutes.
  • When ready you should have a flavorful shellfish broth. Strain the liquid and reserve. Discard the solids.
  • uni-pasta1final
    For the pasta sauce:
  • Place the sea urchin, the softened butter, the espelette pepper and a good pinch of sea salt in the bowl of a food processor and process to a smooth puree.
  • Strain the mixture or pass it through a tamis.
  • If not using right away, cover and reserve in the refrigerator. If ready to proceed, place one cup of langoustine broth into a large pan and bring to a boil. Whisk in the sea urchin mixture until smooth, do not boil it. You should have a very creamy pasta sauce. If it gets too thick (and it will) use some of the pasta cooking water to bring it to the right consistency.
  • uni-pasta-4final

  • To finish the dish:
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. It should taste like the sea.
  • Cook the pasta to al dente. Drain it and toss it in the sauce.
  • While the pasta is cooking, sautee the langoustine tails in butter. Season to taste with salt and piment d’espelette and toss them in the pasta and the sauce.
  • Dress the pasta in individual bowls or family style, top with the julienned snow peas and serve immediately. Enjoy!
  • uni-pasta-5final

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  • Rachel

    This looks fabulously decadently creamy yet light and fresh at the same time (and um. yes a little bright).

    I think you’re doing just beautifully with the photography though – it is something I personally struggle with and I can only gaze at other foodie sites with awe and admiration!

  • elra

    Another mouth watering recipe, Delicious indeed. And the photo look really delicious too …

    Oh by the way, the fluorescent David Bowie T-shirts sound pretty cool actually.

  • Manggy

    No, no, it doesn’t look weirdly fluorescent (though I can’t imagine you David Bowie phase… that must have been quite the assault on the eyes! 😛 ) What it does look is delicious (even though I’ve had neither langoustines nor urchin. Sigh!).

  • Stacey Snacks

    We ate at Esca for the first time on Friday night!
    It was excellent. Nice change up on Pasternack’s dish……the brightness of the photos woke me right up this morning!

  • Olga

    Ooh, just realized you have a new home! Looks good.

    I never had sea urchin…it scares me.

  • Erika

    Thank you for this recipe! It looks delicious!

    I hoped when I saw the post’s title that Dave would be mentioned! I love that guy. And Esca… We try to eat there every time we get back to NYC.

  • Courtney aka glamah

    Oh that looks so rich and sexy.

  • Colloquial Cook

    Ohla, les langoustines dans la boîte en alu ont les yeux tout vitreux – je crois qu’elles ont trop regardé les snow peas fluorescents!

  • emiglia

    I have the same problem with turning my photos a little bit too bright. It’s just so easy!

    Lovely looking langoustines… I love them (and alliteration too, apparently…)

  • Jerry

    I enjoy your site. The old format allowed you to click on your pictures to enlarge and save. Not possible now. I would occasionally put them on my desk top

  • Heather

    That creamy, sunshine-colored uni sauce looks amazing.

    “Chittara” still always makes me think of Thundercats. Hoooooo!

  • Janet_Gourmettraveller88

    Too bad I could not buy Uni here, I want to try this recipe too. Yours and Marc’s both look so delicious.

  • doggybloggy

    I love uni so much I dont care what you do with it – this looks bright – I mean great!

  • matt wright

    Finding decent langoustine here in Seattle is a complete bitch, but something I might try and do, since this looks so bloody fantastic. Great recipe mate. Very clean.

  • Angry Brit

    Firstly, florescent colours do not scream zen to me. (If it screams is it zen at all, actually?) It screams many things, but zen is not one of them. Secondly, I would love to make this for my dad. He put his hand on a sea urchin when we were scuba diving in Thailand a few years ago. He likes to tell us that the sea urchin attacked him. This would be a nice revenge on his part. Thirdly, DAVID BOWIE RULES!!

  • claudia (cook eat FRET)

    holy mother of god
    this is what i want
    this is what i dream about

    i want sea urchin sauce on my chitarra pasta with bottarga. and i want a big freakin bowl of it. and then i want you all to go away and leave me alone.

    funny, how i just invited you to esca. i forgot you guys did a blogger dinner there… well gear up for another!

  • Tavolini

    Wow!! I love the sea urchin sauce! That sounds about right 😉

  • cakebrain

    Oh man…I used to wear my David Bowie concert shirt all the time in high school! He’s so cool! I too love the “brightening tool” for my blog pics. Brighter is always better than dark, in my opinion. I’m not into sea urchin, but looking at your pics, I’d say you could tempt me with trying it again.

  • foodhuntress79

    Wow. You’re a teenager in the early 90’s…and now you cook fantastic Euro-Japanese pasta. I’m not a big fan of uni- they pierce my feet when I bathe in the sea 😛 A painful lot! Good thing you turn them into sauce :)

  • Nicole

    Well for me the colors are completely enticing! The brights and contrast is so gorgeous. I’ve never had sea urchin. Would love to try it.

  • Mel @

    If I could choose one dish to have on my death bed, it would involve Uni and pasta. Maybe rice. Period.

  • claire miller

    My husband and I were in Manhattan recently and were at Esca as well and had this dish. Very creamy and rich, though our favorite was the squid ink pasta with tomato and chilis. I found that the dungeness they served in the dish was almost a throwaway next to the uni. Langoustines I think sound like a better match. More textural contrast, stronger flavor.

  • Marc @ NoRecipes

    Argghh my eyes!;-P Actually I kind of like it, does look very Pop Artish. And your subject matter looks delightful. I’m a big fan of uni and carbs. They’re great in mashed potatoes too.

  • Peter

    Monsieur, the photos are fab…but keep playing! As for the dish, the uni and langoustine broth have surely heightened the dish to give you a Bastille Day in the mouth.

    I do hope Claire washed the dishes.

  • rebekka

    Claudia at Cook Eat FRET just directed me here after reading my post about uni pasta I just had in LA. Now I can not WAIT to make this. It looks beautiful! I just don’t know how to buy sea urchin in Nashville…hopefully Claudia will have a good suggestion for that!

  • hapleng

    Thank you for good information


  • Large Pot

    Just came and read, this is wow! I was seek from many blogs, but here is the best, I love it.

  • Millertime

    OK…so how many of you commenters/readers out there have actually made this dish, eh? I just made it for valentines, substituting lobster for langostine…and I must say RI-DI-CU-LOUS!!! I live on the west coast so the uni is abundant and fresh..this was every bit as good as it looks in the bowiesque pictures above. Dang!