Ever since having Emi, our 2 year old daughter, blogging unfortunately has been on the back burner. While we still cook frequently, photographing the cooking in a stylistic step-by-step way for the blog has becomes almost impossible. But regardless we love her to death and wouldn’t have it any other way. While she brings us joy every day in her own ways, we do occasionally miss the freedoms of spontaneously going out for a night on the town without planning for a sitter weeks in advance. Sometimes we bite the bullet and resort to dragging Emi with us and show up right at a restaurant’s opening time to snag a walk in table. This was the case with Bestia, one of Los Angeles best Italian restaurants and arguably one of Los Angeles’s hardest reservations. We showed up right at 5:00pm on a weekday and luckily was able to snag a table in the patio, a definite bonus in case Emi decided to not cooperate. Fortunately, she did cooperate and we had a great family meal highlighted by Bestia’s signature dish, spaghetti rustichella with sea urchin (uni). To our surprised, Emi had no qualms slurping the strands of uni laced spaghetti. We knew we had to recreate this dish at home for our little foodie.
Uni pasta is definitely one of the hot trends in town and we’ve had many versions at various locations. However, just throwing uni on top of pasta (may make it “instagram worthy”) but does not automatically make a good pasta dish. Making it extra creamy and rich doesn’t do it either. Most versions we’ve tried are overly heavy-handed with cream or totally lacking in uni flavor that leaves us dropping our forks after a few bites and wondering why we paid the premium price. Bestia’s version, however, is perfect because it tastes like a seafood pasta should–not heavy, but slightly briny like the sea and the uni adds just the perfect unctuous depth of flavor in a harmonious mix with the pasta. The secret to Bestia’s dish is it’s lobster stock base and treatment of uni like butter, which is really an appropriate comparison because fresh uni is like butter of the sea. The key step is combining the two ingredients together, emulsifying the uni into a lobster stock until it becomes thick and creamy and marrying it with the starch of the spaghetti into one harmonious dish.
Now you too can make this dish at home with just a little preparation; just save those lobster, crab, and shrimp shells! Here’s a quick video of how the dish comes together:
Uni Pasta Spaghetti Rustichelli with Sea Urchin
This recipe is inspired by Bestia in Los Angeles. Lobster stock is key for this dish so make ahead if you can, otherwise, substitute with seafood stock. Chicken stock would work, but would not have the same depth of flavor of the sea. We save lobster heads and shells, crab shells and shrimp shells to make stock and freeze individual portions for future use.
Cook the pasta just short of al dente as you will be cooking it further into the saute pan.
1 tbs minced shallots
1 tbs minced garlic
1 tbs chili garlic sauce (sambal/huy fong rooster brand)
2 tbs finely chopped parsley, divided
2 tbs olive oil
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup lobster stock
1 tray of fresh uni (approximately 4 oz)
8 oz. dried spaghetti noodles
1 tbs bread crumbs or finely crumbled croutons
extra virgin olive oil to finish
Add the garlic, shallots, half of parsley, chile garlic sauce, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a sauté pan. Sauté over medium-high heat until fragrant about 4-5 minutes.
Add salt to a pot of boiling water and the spaghetti and cook until al dente, about six to seven minutes. Add the white wine to the pan. Cook until reduced, stirring occasionally. After the wine has reduced, add the lobster stock. Turn off heat and add the sea urchin, reserving about a few whole pieces for presentation. Stir the urchins until they break down and have emulsified into the sauce. Season with pinch of sea salt and fresh ground black pepper. Return the pan to heat on medium-low and add the spaghetti into the pan. Toss the spaghetti into the sauce, using 1 tbs pasta water to help thicken. Cook and mix everything together for another two to three minutes.
Pour the pasta into a pasta bowl. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and remainder of parsley. Garnish with remainder of sea urchin and finish with a sprinkle of sea salt and drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.