Spaghetti w/ Lemon and Crab

The Italians are known for their simple preparations.  Use the freshest, highest quality ingredients and allow them to speak for themselves.  This is in line with my food philosophy of using the best local and seasonal ingredients and letting them shine.  Their natural deliciousness will speak volumes.  No need to drown them in sauce or smother them in cheese like the trend that is so popular in many American restaurants today.  It is my opinion that this is an attempt to mask the lack of flavor in inferior products. 

Nothing speaks freshness more than lemons.  It has been called liquid sunshine as the assertive flavor is both bright and renewing.  It is used abundently in both sweet and savory preparations.  Said to have medicinal properties, it is revered by many cultures. 

In this recipe it is paired with simple ingredients such as pasta, olive oil, crab, Parmesan cheese and parsley.  It is a perfect dish for a light supper or summer lunch.  Don’t eat crab?  You could substitute shrimp, scallops or other seafood or leave it out entirely for an even lighter vegetarian dish. 


1 lb. spaghetti, preferrably Italian

1 lb. crab meat

4T extra virgin olive oil

1/4 c dry white wine

1/2 c fresh lemon juice

Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

1/2 c Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated

Zest of one lemon, grated

1/2 c flat leaf parsley, chopped

Good quality extra virgin olive oil for finishing


Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and salt it heavily.  Remember, the Italians believe your pasta water should taste like the sea.  Add the pasta and cook slightly under the recommended time on the package.

  1. While the pasta cooks, add the crabmeat to the olive oil in a large saute pan over low heat to warm slightly.
  2. Add the wine, bring it to a boil and immediately turn the heat to low.
  3. Stir in the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 c of the pasta water and add to the pan with the crab.  Toss in 1/4 c of the Parmiagiano, the lemon zest and the parsley.  Gently toss to mix, adding some pasta water if necessary for more moisture.
  5. Drizzle with finishing oil.

Serve in bowls, finishing with a little more olive oil and topping with Parmigiano cheese.

Traditionally, cheese is not served with seafood in Italian cuisine but I, and Frances Mayes (author, Under the Tuscan Sun), whose recipe I adapted, think this recipe is enhanced by a little Parm.  Frances says in Tuscany one may have to go to confession for this grievous sin.

Light and lemony is the path I love for the warm days ahead or even in the winter when a bit of sunshine soothes the soul.  You can vary this recipe many ways.  I would love to hear your versions.


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