Crab could very well be one of my favorite seafoods, especially Dungeness crab that is so easily available in the Pacific Northwest. I usually enjoy crab on its own with lemon butter and a glass of white wine, but this Crab & Broccolini Lemon Pasta is amazing! It hits all the taste sensations and is so worth the time spent cracking the crab!
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The list of ingredients is short ... under 10 actually! Once the crab is cracked and the pasta is cooked, it takes well under 10 minutes to pull together. In fact, all of dinner can be prepared in about 30 minutes ... if you crack crab quickly!
About that crab ... does it have to be fresh?
Ideally, yes! However, you might be able to get fresh crab where you live. Maybe all that's available to you is frozen or in a plastic container. If you can't get fresh crab, you can still enjoy this dish. Just promise me that you make a good faith effort to find fresh crab!
If you simply can't find crab, shrimp would be absolutely delicious, too. Or even a firm white fish such as halibut.
What kind of pasta should I use?
I know you want me to say that you can use any shape of pasta that you want and I guess truly that you can. However, most pasta dishes do better with specified shapes depending on the sauce or other components of the dish. For this one, I really like something like a casarecce, fusilli, penne, or medium shell because the pieces of crab and the sauce get caught in the shapes providing a very satisfying bite!
Where to start when making Crab & Broccolini Lemon Pasta
To get this done quickly, start with putting the water on to boil for the pasta and don't forget to salt it generously!
While that is coming to a boil, crack the crab. Be sure to sift through and get any pieces of shell that might have dropped in. To save time, you can also use lump crabmeat that has already been cracked. You can sometimes find it in seafood sections packaged in plastic containers.
Once the crab is cracked and the pasta is cooked, things go real fast! Ready?
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat, then add the garlic and red pepper. This only needs to cook about a minute since we don't want the garlic to brown. We're really just scenting the oil.
Then the broccolini goes in, get a little tender, but stays bright green.
And then the crab. It only needs a wee minute to warm up, then the pasta can be strained out of the pot directly into the skillet. If you have a pasta pot, you can lift the strainer part out to dump the pasta into the skillet. If you don't, use a slotted spoon or large skimmer. Put a couple of ladles of pasta water in the skillet as well, and squeeze lemon juice over all of it. Taste it for seasoning and add salt and more red pepper as needed.
Would you just look at skillet of pasta?! There's plenty of crab, there's a bit of sauciness, and the combination of flavors is amazing ... salty, sweet, sour, spicy (as much or as little as you want) ...
Take that beautiful skillet to the table just like that, if you want. I usually do. But if you have a lovely pasta bowl, feel free to use that ... especially if you have kiddos that might get burnt on a hot skillet.
Other recipes you might like:
- Scallops with Butternut Squash Puree
- Salmon with Chili Ginger Aioli
- Crabcakes with Roasted Red Pepper Aioli
Crab & Broccolini Lemon Pasta
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves thinly sliced or coarsely chopped
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper (flakes or powder) more if you like spicy!
- ½ pound broccolini cut into bite-sized pieces
- 12 ounces pasta casarecce, fusilli, penne, or medium shell
- ½ pound fresh crabmeat such as Dungeness or blue crab (see notes)
- 1 lemon halved
- Salt and pepper to season
- Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water, (see notes), stirring occasionally to keep it from sticking together. Reserve about a cup of the pasta liquid.
- While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about a minute.
- Add broccolini and season with salt. Cook until tender, about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the crab and allow it to warm, then add the cooked pasta and half of the reserved water. Toss to mix everything, adding more of the pasta liquid as needed.
- Squeeze the lemon over the pasta and serve with more salt and red pepper.