Earlier this year we went to a taping of the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Before the show, Jon comes out and answers questions from the audience. Bryan asked him what his favorite restaurant in New York City was. He said he didn't know, and asked Bryan was his was. "Babbo," Bryan unequivocally responded.
We've only had the opportunity to dine at Babbo twice, as it's nearly impossible to get a table there. "What's that? You have a 10:45 pm seating available one month from now? Ok we'll take it." Is a pretty good way of summing up the reservation situation. But it's for good raeson. The whole experience is superb. The staff is welcoming, knowledgeable, and friendly. The wine list is extensive and accessible, and the food is divine. It is probably the best food we've eaten.
|And why have I never been invited to Babbo??|
Making the Dish
What You'll Need
1/2 lb fresh squid ink spaghetti
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup chopped red onion
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic
8 oz sweet sopressata
8 oz rock shrimp
1 cup sliced scallions
dash salt and pepper
Preparing the dish is actually pretty simple. Like many of Batali's dishes, the black spaghetti dish relies on the quality of the ingredients shining through a simple preparation. So let's spend a moment talking about the ingredients.
Black spaghetti. This is a fresh pasta made with flour, egg, and squid ink, which gives it the black color. From a flavor perspective, it is not too different from regular pasta, it just adds a slightly briny flavor, and a touch more umami. Really though, the purpose of using the squid ink pasta is for the presentation - the black strands provide an amazing contrast on any plate.
|Fresh rock shrimp, sliced sweet soppressata, garlic|
Rock shrimp. We really weren't sure what rock shrimp were before going into this dish, so we asked the fishmonger at Eataly about it. He said that they were smaller and somewhat sweeter in flavor than a normal shrimp. This is definitely true - the shrimpy flavor is amped up and sweetened, and is a wonderful compliment to the spicy sauce in the dish.
Soppressata. This is an Italian aged cured salami. We've seen two types - sweet and spicy, and we opted for the sweet kind for this dish to compliment the shrimp and provide contrast to the spicy sauce. We've used this before on pizza and it's becoming one of our favorite cured meats. It provides a bigger mouthfeel than a pancetta, and a big complex flavor that can really enhance any dish.
|Green chile pesto ingredients|
To make the dish, first create a green chile pesto by combining the jalapeños, almonds, red onions, a touch of salt, and olive oil together in a food processor and pulsing everything together into a paste.
|Pulsing the ingredients together in our new food processor!|
While Kelly's recipe calls for 3 full cups of jalapeños, we only used three chiles total, and kept the remaining ingredients at the same amount, and it was still extremely spicy. If this is too spicy for you, you can cut it down further by adding some basil and more olive oil to the pesto.
|The finished pesto. Potent stuff.|
We placed a pot of water over heat to get the boiling started, and while we were waiting for that we moved onto the sauce.
|I would like to try some food please.|
|Sautéing the rock shrimp, soppressata, and garlic together in olive oil.|
Into this mix we added about 3 tablespoons of the pesto and tossed everything together. We let this simmer over low heat while we cooked the pasta.
|Adding the pesto to the mix.|
|Tossing the black spaghetti into the shrimp and soppressata mixture.|
To serve, we garnished the pasta with thinly sliced scallions, and then gobbled everything up!
As we mentioned, this is an extremely simple preparation. Pulsing up a pesto, sautéing a couple of ingredients, and then stirring in a few tablespoons of pesto is hardly a difficult job. That said, the diversity of flavor, and the way the various sweet and spicy elements intermingle make this an astonishingly good meal for how simple it is to do.
We can't say we pulled this off quite as well as they do at Babbo, but given how difficult it is to get a seat there and how rarely we get to go, this is a great substitute that can be made quickly any night of the week!
Let us know your favorite restaurant and favorite dish in the comments below!