spicy spaghettini with sea urchin and tomatoes

January 31st, 2010 · 28 Comments

sea urchin. i’m enamored. and i have been for quite some time although it’s usually called uni and served to me over a slab of rice. well ok, not necessarily – at least not anymore. not since i had it served on a piece of lightly toasted bread, draped with the thinnest, barely warmed slice of lardo at marea in nyc. thank you chef michael white. because that right there was a most memorable bite, one that set the tone for one of my top 3 meals of ’09.

and sure, there have been a few pastas with sea urchin ordered at various restaurants (a voce, esca and marea come to mind…). and then there was that whole bourdain/ripert food porn spectacle at le bernardin… i watched that and yearned… deeply… (for both tony and the taglietelle.)

but just 3 days ago i was lucky enough to find myself in possession of two 80 gram trays of the freshest most lovely sea urchin that one might ever come across – overnighted via fedex from san diego. i nearly made that eric ripert version which is pretty much a butter sauce fortified with pureed sea urchin and then embellished with chives, espelette, parmigiano and a touch of lemon – not to mention the generous dollop of osetra… but it just seemed TOO rich. TOO heavy. not that i’m knocking it. i’m quite sure that it’s an experience unto itself and one that i plan on having at some point, but right now i’m trying to keep it light – so i begrudgingly shied away from that.

and then i found it. right in the ny times. the perfect dish…

a close up for you of one of the most wonderful things i’ve made perhaps ever… but then again i’d not eaten any pasta for nearly a solid month so it’s hard to know. regardless, i highly – but highly recommend this dish.

it blew me away.

spicy spaghettini with sea urchin and tomatoes
adapted from chef beatrice tosti of il posto accanto in nyc

makes 4 small plates

8 ounces dry spaghettini
sea salt
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, more for drizzling
6 cloves garlic, peeled
a scant 1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
12 ounces grape or cherry tomatoes, preferably organic, halved
about 2 1/2 ounces sea urchin – one standard tray
freshly grated zest of an organic lemon
small handful flat-leaf parsley leaves, freshly chopped.

bring a medium pot of well salted water to a boil over high heat. meanwhile, in a skillet large enough to later hold all the pasta, heat the olive oil over medium heat. add garlic, reduce heat to low, and slowly cook on all sides, turning often, until cloves are lightly browned and caramelized, about 10 minutes.

raise heat under skillet to medium, add chili flakes and cook, stirring, until toasted, about 2 minutes. add tomatoes and cook, turning gently, just until wilted.

when water boils, add the pasta. stir well. when pasta is cooked through but still firm, drain, reserving 1 cup cooking water.

turn heat under skillet to low. add about 3/4 of the sea urchin to skillet with a splash of pasta cooking water. add pasta to skillet and toss thoroughly but gently over low heat, adding pasta cooking water and more oil to taste if mixture is dry. taste for salt and toss in lemon zest and parsley.

serve hot, decorating each serving with remaining sea urchin.


a huge shout out to catalina offshore products for supplying me with this incredible seafood. they dive for the sea urchin when the weather permits and then ship it directly to your door. it was just excellent and as fresh as it gets.

it arrives in this small, slim box surrounded by ice packs

and this right here is the beautiful golden sea urchin.
which by the way is not actually roe, they’re the gonads of both the males and females..

as in testicles and ovaries.

and dear readers after all we’ve meant to each other
i wouldn’t kid you about a thing like this…

Tags: pasta · seafood · tomatoes

28 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Melissa // Feb 1, 2010 at 12:18 am

    Oh I know you’re not kidding. I don’t care. It’s just too good!

    Nice pasta (understatement).

  • 2 Julia // Feb 1, 2010 at 6:01 am

    Ooh, i love sea urchin too! And that pasta looks divine! I used to have a readily available source in Boston, but that market closed. You’ve motivated me to find a new source.

  • 3 Donald // Feb 1, 2010 at 7:57 am

    looks great. i have never had sea urchin. i guess i’m missing out.

  • 4 Robert // Feb 1, 2010 at 9:55 am


  • 5 Bucky // Feb 1, 2010 at 10:50 am

    I saw the post today on the uni and I’m heading down to pick some up for dinner tonite a surprise looking foward to trying your dish the family will be taken back

  • 6 claudia // Feb 1, 2010 at 11:58 am

    julia – give catalina a try. the prices are reasonable but of course then there’s the shipping. but you’ll get the best and freshest product available…

  • 7 Amy at Minimally Invasive // Feb 1, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    I really shouldn’t have clicked over just before lunch. Once again, you blow my mind! Gorgeous, gorgeous stuff.

  • 8 jim voorhies // Feb 1, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    That’s either a really, really small box or San Diego sea urchins are much larger than ones in the Caribbean I’m accustomed to not stepping on.

  • 9 John // Feb 1, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    OK – You’ve got me down on one knee again. We’d make such beautiful food together. This pasta dish sounds fantastic.

  • 10 codfish // Feb 2, 2010 at 6:06 pm

    Jim and I had dinner at Marea last Saturday… and ohmigod those lardo urchin toasts! So delicious! And the fusilli with octopus and marrow had the perfect touch of spice… loved it.

    And I’ve made the Ripert version and, in a small portion, was HEAVEN… but will have to try this one, too.

  • 11 Heather // Feb 2, 2010 at 10:18 pm

    Having never eaten uni, I would hazard that this is the yang to bottarga’s yin, but I might just hafta try it for myself.

  • 12 bob // Feb 2, 2010 at 10:18 pm

    wow, look at that, I’m already drooling, great color, looks delicious

  • 13 rebekka // Feb 3, 2010 at 8:17 am

    Oh my gosh, Claudia, I am so grateful to you for this. I’ve been wanting to make some good uni pasta for a whole year now but was scared to find uni on my own, terrified that I would be disappointed with the quality. I am SO GRATEFUL for this recommendation…now I feel like I can finally do it. You are the best!!!

  • 14 Cassandra // Feb 3, 2010 at 7:13 pm

    I have never thought about sea urchin and pasta…I salute you for your efforts to acquire such a unique ingredient. I love how the sea urchin seems to make a light, yellowy sauce on the pasta.

  • 15 erik organic // Feb 4, 2010 at 12:31 am

    This recipe is something new for me. I never tried putting sea urchin into a pasta dish. Thanks for this nice idea.

  • 16 nancy at goodfoodmatters // Feb 4, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    wow, how did this almost pass me by?
    astonishing color,
    uncomplicated recipe
    assertive—in a grand way.

  • 17 Kristie // Feb 4, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    I like that they didn’t come in the spiny, aggressive-ass shells for you. I don’t like that they’re testicles and ovaries. I like you. That’s 2:1, so the dish wins.

    I also like that you have a “top 3 meals of 2009.” I should start rating things that way. Two of my three were at Alinea. The other one was probably at the teensy taqueria up the street.

  • 18 Tweets that mention cook eat FRET - spicy spaghettini with sea urchin and tomatoes -- Topsy.com // Feb 4, 2010 at 9:41 pm

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Rebekka Seale, Catalina Offshore. Catalina Offshore said: We were fortunate enough to have a great chef named Claudia Young prepare a dish using our urchin. http://bit.ly/cOpYw3 […]

  • 19 Robert H. // Feb 5, 2010 at 10:12 am

    I know my Italisan food pretty well and all I can say is that this is one great blog to come to for ideas that I may not have come across. Thanks Claudia. Simple and terrific.

  • 20 Amanda Firth // Feb 5, 2010 at 10:17 am

    My husband loves Uni, always ordering it at Japanese places. I may surprise him with this for Valentines Day!!!

    I can’t wait to tell him about the gonads. Priceless!!!

  • 21 Carol Ann // Feb 5, 2010 at 10:36 am

    Yikes. Sea Urchin. I can’t imagine eating it especially now that you HAD TO GO AND TELL ME WHAT IT IS!
    But I must admit that if you made it for me, didn’t talk about it and I had no idea, I’ll bet it’s totally yummy!

  • 22 cookiecrumb // Feb 8, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    Wow, you really go for those deep, oceanic flavors, don’t you? Here’s a challenge: Next time make it with black squid ink spaghetti. Fun.

  • 23 Peter // Feb 9, 2010 at 7:18 pm

    I went to RISD, where they have a hockey team called the Nads. Fans sit in the stands chanting “GO NADS! GO NADS!”

    I just figured out why that’s funny.

  • 24 rach // Feb 10, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    We had the most delicious sea urchins in sardinia recently, the following evening bottarga, I thought of you – really.
    lovely recipe, aha the lemon zest, nice.

  • 25 Rose // Feb 10, 2010 at 4:14 pm

    Fantastic! I usually get my uni at Mitsuwa, but I’m all about sourcing uni from somewhere local and more direct to the actual fishermen themselves. Thanks for the reference to Catalina Offshore! I want to try their live uni, sadly they are currently out of stock. I’m hungrily on the waiting list 😀 Beautiful post and that dish looks fantastic!

  • 26 Steven // Apr 25, 2010 at 12:59 am

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Rebekka Seale, Catalina Offshore. Catalina Offshore said: We were fortunate enough to have a great chef named Claudia Young prepare a dish using our urchin. http://bit.ly/cOpYw3 […]

  • 27 Digital Scales // Jul 1, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    Sea urchin is one of my favorite things to add to special meals.. In spaghetti it is just fabulous! I can’t wait to try this recipe for my husbands birthday. He loves spaghetti and sea urchin so I’m sure it’ll be a huge hit! kudos

  • 28 claudia // Sep 18, 2013 at 11:58 am

    making this again today… years later…

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