In this adaptation of a popular southern Italian specialty, king crab legs are a meatier alternative to blue crabs.
Yield: serves 4
1⁄3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb. thawed frozen cooked king crab legs, cut into 3" pieces
1 tsp. celery seed
3⁄4 crushed red chile flakes
8 leaves fresh basil, plus more for garnish
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, smashed
2 (28-oz.) cans whole peeled tomatoes, undrained
2 tbsp. half-and-half
1 lb. lump crabmeat
Kosher salt, to taste
1 lb. spaghetti
Heat oil in a 6-qt. pot over high heat. Add crab legs and cook, turning occasionally, about 5 minutes. Transfer crab to a plate. Add celery seed, chile flakes, basil, onions, and garlic to pot; cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft, about 9 minutes. Transfer mixture to a blender along with tomatoes and half-and-half and puree. Transfer puree back to pot over medium heat. Add reserved crab pieces and any juices from plate and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. Add lump crabmeat and continue to cook for another 15 minutes. Season sauce with salt, cover, and set aside.
Meanwhile, bring an 8-qt. pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain pasta and transfer to sauce; toss to combine. Serve garnished with torn basil. Crack crab leg pieces to get at the meat inside.
Pairing Note A crisp, almost neutral vinho verde, like the Casal Garcia Vinho Verde, is a refreshing partner for the sweet and hearty crab sauce. — David Rosengarten