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Spaghetti alla busara – spaghetti with langoustines

Spaghetti with scampi

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Every year in July the charming maritime city of Choggia (often refereed to as 'la piccola Venezia', the little Venice) hosts a big festival, the sagra del pesce, celebrating its long-held fishing tradition and wonderful seafood cuisine. It has recently become an unmissable event for my parents – a sort of new family tradition, which I am happy to honour whenever I happen to be around (you'll never see me bailing out from the prospect of a seafood feast).

Along the main pedestrian street, arrays of stalls offer a series of seafood-based piatti tipici at reasonable prices: from fritto misto to risotto di pesce, from peoci in cassopipa (steamed mussels in parsley sauce) to baccala. The dynamics – well – those resemble any other food festival in Italy. Patrons form scattered queues in front of the cashier, yell their order to the overwhelmed lady at the till, wait (impatiently) for a table to clear, sit down – not without pestering the tables nearby, finish a jug of prosecco (rigorously on tap), go for a second round (hear their name, pick up the order), sit down bothering everyone else once more, and finally tuck in with gusto, leaving behind a trail of emptied bivalve shells. It's a fun, folkloristic experience; a full immersion in the atmosphere of the place, and an occasion to eat some very delicious fish.

It was at this sagra del pesce that i first tasted Spaghetti alla busara (spaghetti with scampi/langoustines). I had never come across it before (a sign of how many facets of regional Italian cuisine can have, and of how different food can be even between two neighbouring towns); I was intrigued. Needless to say, I was pretty pleased to see some fat scampi coming my way as my order reached the table. The sauce itself turned out to be of the simplest kind (just tomato, parsley and a hint of chilli, all brought together by olive oil and wine) but impeccable in its basic nature; no need to mess about with good scampi after all.

Since then, Spaghetti alla busara has become the sort of pasta I like making for friends when cooking Venetian. It's impressive and yet unfussy, refined but a bit messy, and it asks for licking your fingers like there's no tomorrow. I like to think of it as a feast in itself.

Ingredients

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Method

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1
Start by cleaning the langoustines. Wash them thoroughly under cold running water, then slit the back and remove the black thread (intestine). Set aside
2
Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the onion over a medium heat until soft and translucent
3
Add the garlic and the chillies and stir. Let them infuse in the oil for a couple of minutes (reduce the heat if it looks like they're burning), then throw in the langoustines and increase the heat to high
4
Season with salt and pepper and sauté for 2 minutes, then remove from the pan and set aside
5
Pour in the wine; allow it to reduce over a very high heat and then add the chopped tomatoes. Reduce the heat to medium, cover and cook for 15–20 minutes, until the tomatoes appear saucy. If during this time the sauce dries out excessively, add a drop of water. Turn off the heat and cover to keep warm
6
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Cook the spaghetti very al dente – about 3 minutes short of the suggested cooking time – reserving about 250ml of the cooking water
7
Drain and transfer to the pan with the tomato sauce and add the langoustines too. Place over a medium–high heat and pour in the reserved cooking water
8
Toss until the pasta has absorbed most of the liquid and is nicely coated in sauce. Sprinkle with parsley and toss in some more to combine. Serve right away
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Spaghetti alla busara – spaghetti with langoustines

 
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