Spaghetti ai Ricci di Mare con Limone e Mentuccia Romana (Spaghetti With Sea Urchin Roe, Lemon and Field Balm)
After cleaning 32 sea urchins we ended up with half a cereal bowl full of eggs for our pasta. Doesn't seem like much, does it? But a lot of work went into this meal, so we were determined to make it really good. Valeria knew how to use the sea urchins with an Italian flair. She was the expert of the day since she spent her childhood summers on the Island of Capri hunting "ricci di mare" on the rocks.
Normally we make an appetizer out of sea urchin roe just by laying them on some buttered toast and eating them along with iced Tsipouro in the courtyard before dinner. This time though, it was sea urchin pasta sauce.
roe of 32 sea urchins
1/4 cup the best extra virgin olive oil*
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 sprig mentuccia romana (field balm) yielding about 2 tablespoons of leaves
salt and pepper to taste.
1 lb package spaghetti
Mix the first 5 ingredients in a bowl and reserve. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it generously and add the pasta stirring constantly until is begins to bend. Cook using package directions. When al dente, drain and place in a large pasta bowl, add the sauce and toss as gently as possible to avoid smooshing the sea urchin roe. Music to stir urchin roe by: The Screaming Orphans' (this one goes out to you, M.O.T.S.) cover of the Pixies' "Here Comes Your Man" on album "Circle". Look on the left of the page to hear it for yourself. Their soft and liltingly Irish version of this Pixies screamer is unrestrainedly hilarious! The roe will break anyway, but you're doing good if they stay in pieces rather than becoming a paste.
*The olive oil will stay raw in this dish, so make sure it's the best one you can afford since here, you'll really taste the difference.