Sea Urchin Spaghetti

After a feast of sea urchin crostini with lardo I still had half a tray of sea urchin left, and faced with the tough decision to either eat them with a spoon or whip up this easy and tasty pasta dish, I went with the latter. It’s simple, but the richness combined with the oceanic flavor is just extraordinary. And to make things come full circle a handful of slightly blanched julienned snowpeas are thrown in to add a little refreshing “bite” which counteracts the creaminess quite perfectly. I posted a similar pasta inspired by the one served by Dave Pasternack at Esca in NYC a few years ago but the “bowiesque” photography at the time convinced me it was time for a little update.

Next time you plan on cooking shrimp, buy them head-on and save the heads to make a quick and flavorful shrimp stock. It’s a great thing to keep in the freezer when making dishes like this one. All I had to do is puree the sea urchin in a food processor with softened butter and piment d’espelette and added it to the reduced broth. It emulsifies to create the creamiest of sauce deliciously flavored with shellfish and uni with the gentle heat of the piment d’espelette.

And for an extra oomphff of umami I sprinkled the pasta dish with dried shrimp roe which can be easily found at your nearest Chinatown. Enjoy!

  • Sea Urchin Spaghetti

    • Inspired by Esca
    • Serves 4
    • For the shrimp broth:
    • 10 shrimp, 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 shrimp broth (see above)
    • To finish:
    • 1 lb spaghetti
    • piment d’espelette to taste
    • a handful snow peas, julienned and quickly blanched
    • dried shrimp roe
    • For the shrimp broth:
  • Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and add the chopped shrimp 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.
  • Strain the liquid and reserve. Discard the solids.
  • 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.
  • If not using right away, cover and reserve in the refrigerator. When ready to proceed, place one cup of shrimp 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.
  • 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 and toss it in the sauce. (While the pasta is cooking, you could sautee the shrimp in butter, season to taste with salt and piment d’espelette and toss them in the pasta and the sauce. That’s optional.)
  • Toss with the julienned snow peas and garnish with sea urchin, sprinkle with dry shrimp roe. Serve immediately.
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  • Tasteslikehome

    I’ve never had sea urchin and really looking forward to trying it one day. It is a delicacy here in Barbados and is known simply as sea eggs. Due to over “fishing” or harvesting of the eggs, government has had to institute a ban on fisherfolk seeking sea urchin. If caught they could would be heavily fined and perhaps even imprisoned.

    I hope that the ban lifts in a few years time. Until then, I can live vicariously through blogs and dishes like yours :)

  • Tasteslikehome

    I’ve never had sea urchin and really looking forward to trying it one day. It is a delicacy here in Barbados and is known simply as sea eggs. Due to over “fishing” or harvesting of the eggs, government has had to institute a ban on fisherfolk seeking sea urchin. If caught they could would be heavily fined and perhaps even imprisoned.

    I hope that the ban lifts in a few years time. Until then, I can live vicariously through blogs and dishes like yours :)

  • http://foodalogue.com foodalogue

    Oh, yeah….when in doubt, make pasta. That’s my official motto on foodbuzz. I have to admit though, I’ve never made anything like this. I drool.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Peter-Minaki/560410552 Peter Minaki

    Beautiful pasta made with pure ingredients. A little background work with your stocks etc but otherwise simple flavours complementing the sea urchin roe.

  • http://willtravelforfood.com mayssam

    I had pasta with tomato sauce for lunch today which I thought was pretty good, until I saw this! You always have to show off don’t you? ;) This looks absolutely delicious and the photos are beautiful! Now if only I had some uni and shrimp stock lying around…

  • http://vanillasugarblog.com vanillasugarblog

    how long did the sea urchin keep in the fridge? i would think it would not keep long at all. or were they still in shells living happily in a tank? lol

  • http://twitter.com/ChezWhat Christo

    I have been resisting my overwhelming craving for sea urchin but YOU are making it increasingly more difficult

  • Bee

    Your sea urchin pasta is better than mine, I want I want.

  • http://www.kitchenriffs.com kitchenriffs

    Recipe reads great – sounds like a nice, complex flavor but pretty easy to do.  A particularly nice method for shrimp broth (I also like to saute my tomato paste for a couple of minutes).  And the completed dish has such great color!  Really, really nice. Thanks.

  • Cucina49

    I’m not sure I’m ever going to make this because I don’t believe I can find sea urchin in Alaska–however, I love the adventurousness of this dish and the color is fabulous!

  • http://profiles.google.com/gnocchiaifunghi Frank Fariello

    There are few flavors in this world as rich as sea urchin. This has got to be fantastic!

  • shirley@kokken69

    More fat, luxuriously creamy Uni! Let’s see, I have pasta, dried shrimp roe… so all I need to run out to get is a tray of Uni??… another hole in the pocket…but at least I get to stomach it….

  • foodmakesmehappy

    This is such a luscious dish!!!!

  • Jay

    wow…sounds scrumptiously tasty..
    just found your space…excellent space you have with amazing posts..
    love your excellent cliks..
    Am your happy follower now..:)
    do stop by mine sometime..
    Tasty Appetite

  • Anonymous

    I wasn’t aware there was over-fishing issues with sea urchin in some part of the world. The one I get comes usually from Maine or Santa Barbara.

  • Anonymous

    You don’t have shrimp stock laying around like everyone else ;)  

  • Anonymous

    Repeat after me: sea urchin, sea urchin, sea urchin… 

  • Anonymous

    I saw your version and it looks awesome, Bee.

  • Anonymous

    First the sous-vide machine, then this. It’s an expensive habit to read this blog. :)  

  • Anonymous

    Thank you! I would drink a little Corton Charlemagne with this to round things up nicely. 

  • shirley@kokken69

    Yes! Ice cream maker still on waiting list :)

  • http://moonfullofsoup.wordpress.com Miss Nom

    Gorgeous! I have been an avid follower of yours for a while now.. Just thought Id let you know that you have one of my favorite food blogs on the internet! Inspiring food, humor, evocative photography and great writing… keep writing and ill keep reading *and cooking!*

  • Anonymous

    Thank you, Miss Nom. You made my day! Keep coming back. :)