Spaghetti con Scungilli
Region: USA, Italian-American
Category: Pasta with Shellfish
Difficulty: Easy but long cooking time
Italian-Americans growing up on Long Island remember well a popular dish of spaghetti with scungilli which was none other than the mollusc known as the murex. Murex, those beautiful spirally shells, are the homes for sea snails, or conch (pronounced “konk”) as they are known in the Caribbean and also called whelks. They are also sold in a can, a product that seems to lack flavor. If you use the canned product, it will only need one minute of heating. Fresh murex, on the other hand needs some preparation. The murex must be placed in cold water until it purges itself of its waste. Keep changing the water until the last change results in perfectly clear water after 2 hours. This process could take two days.
Yield: Makes 4 servings
Preparation Time: 2 days
12 small fresh murex (each about 2 inches long), purged of their waste (see above) or two 6-ounce cans, drained
3/4 pound spaghetti
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup very finely chopped fresh parsley
2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
2 ripe plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Cook the murex in salted boiling water for 2 to 3 hours. Remove from the water, drain and detach the small shell-hard “foot” from the opening. Chop and set aside.
2. In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat, then cook the parsley and garlic for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, murex, and season with salt and pepper and cook for 5 to 10 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, for every pound of pasta, bring 6 quarts of water to a rolling boil over high heat, salt abundantly with up to 1/2 cup of salt, then add the pasta in handfuls. Cook over high heat, stirring occasionally so the pasta doesn’t stick together, until al dente. Drain without rinsing. Transfer the pasta to the skillet and toss with the sauce and serve.