Pasta

This Spicy, Buttery Crab Pasta Is Just About Foolproof

August 19, 2019
Photo by Ty Mecham. PROP STYLIST: BROOKE DEONARINE. FOOD STYLIST: ANNA BILLINGSKOG.

A good crab cake is hard to find. The more crab, the better. But also: The more crab, the more likely it is to fall apart. And when it falls apart, all you’re left with is an unshapely, buttery, Old Bay-y crab and salty cracker mixture…

Wait, why is this a bad thing?

A crab cake that has fallen to pieces may not be on purpose, but it can be reborn as many other meals. You could scoop it up with more crackers. Spread it on toast. Fold it into a quesadilla. Roll it into sushi. Or, my favorite, toss it with hot pasta.

In fact, you could skip the Oh no! My crab cakes are ruined! part altogether, and fast-forward right to making crab pasta. It’s a dinner that feels special enough for a birthday or date night, but is just about impossible to mess up.

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Top Comment:
“Tempted to try this but with Ritz crackers instead of saltines, which I don't care for. Too buttery (is that even possible?) or even better??”
— Noreen F.
Comment

Here’s how it comes together:

Sautéed vegetables. Onion and celery are classic in a crab cake. In this recipe, we’ll ditch the onions and swap in two other alliums: scallions and leeks. I love their bright colors and grassy flavors.

Jumbo lump crab meat. This is even chunkier than lump crab meat, which means by the time you’re done tossing the pasta, you’ll still end up with lots of big pieces. That said, it’s also more expensive—so if you want to opt for lump instead, that works, too. Just toss extra carefully.

Short-shaped pasta. Short-shaped pasta is ideal for lots of mix-ins (versus, say, a saucy marinara you’d ladle on spaghetti). It could be farfalle, rigatoni, penne, you name it. As for me? I love the shells’ beachy vibe and the way they hug the crab.

Old Bay sauce. The ingredients for this no-cook sauce are plucked straight out of a crab cake recipe: mayonnaise, Old Bay, Dijon mustard, and Worcestershire. (Psst: Keep this on call as a dip for roasted shrimp cocktail.)

Buttery Saltines. Smashed crackers are used as a binder in crab cakes. Here, they’re going to be a crunchy-crumbly garnish. You could just break up some Saltines on top—of course, this would be good. But what’s even better is if you break up the saltines into a hot, buttery skillet, and let them get golden and extra-crispy.

Serve this with an extremely cold bottle of white wine. And if you can find a way to eat it outside, even better.

What’s your favorite summer pasta recipe? Tell us in the comments!

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  • Roslyn Long
    Roslyn Long
  • Sharon in DC
    Sharon in DC
  • Connor Adrian
    Connor Adrian
  • Noreen Fish
    Noreen Fish
  • Emma Laperruque
    Emma Laperruque
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Emma is a writer and recipe developer at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing articles about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now she lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's cooking column, Big Little Recipes, all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she's up to on Instagram and Twitter at @emmalaperruque.

14 Comments

Roslyn L. September 1, 2019
As an Australian I have never heard of 'Old Bay' can you please explain what is in it so i can try to replicate flavour
 
Noreen F. September 3, 2019
Hi, Roslyn: Here's a link to a homemade version of Old Bay from Epicurious, although by the time you buy all of these spices you might be better off getting some shipped to you! :^) https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/member/views/homemade-old-bay-seasoning-recipe-52622321
 
Roslyn L. September 4, 2019
Thanks Noreen
 
Author Comment
Emma L. September 4, 2019
Hi Roslyn! Celery salt, paprika, black pepper, and cayenne (all mixed to taste) would be a good start—but as Noreen noted, it's hard to replicate Old Bay exactly since there are so many spices in the blend.
 
Roslyn L. September 5, 2019
Thanks Emma, I think I will need to make up a jar of this as there appears to be a few recipes I like the look of that call for Old Bay. I did look it up on Amazon to see about buying on-line but all there small containers are sold out so this was not an option.
 
Sharon I. August 22, 2019
How about an Old Bay sub? I'd rather more crab taste than the Old Bay taste. . .
 
Author Comment
Emma L. August 22, 2019
Hi, that's a tough one! Old Bay has 18 different herbs and spices, so it's pretty unique. You could reduce the amount, skip it altogether (and add a couple pinches of black pepper), or add a few coins of thinly sliced chile to the sautéed vegetables.
 
Connor A. August 20, 2019
Is there a substitute for mayonnaise?
 
Author Comment
Emma L. August 20, 2019
Hi! You could swap in soft butter—just adjust the amount to taste.
 
Noreen F. August 19, 2019
Tempted to try this but with Ritz crackers instead of saltines, which I don't care for. Too buttery (is that even possible?) or even better??
 
Author Comment
Emma L. August 19, 2019
Ritz crackers would be great—go for it! Just salt them to taste (since they're less salty than Saltines).
 
FrugalCat August 20, 2019
Yes to Ritz crackers. And I was also thinking...Cheez-its? Some say cheese with seafood is a no-no, but I'm really intrigued.
 
Author Comment
Emma L. August 20, 2019
Yum, Cheez-Its sound great to me!
 
Mari H. September 13, 2019
Both Ritz and Cheez-Its sound like good alternatives to the saltines. Perfect “excuse” to make the dish twice.