When you think of summer in Greece, perhaps you think of the beautiful beaches and the deep crystal blue water. Perhaps you should be thinking of the things in the water!
Greeks consume a variety of seafood, particularly in the summer months when fishing vessels go out to sea on a daily basis. The catch is sold fresher than fresh at the local farmer’s markets, alongside the bounty of just-picked vegetables from the nearby farms. Meals are usually created out of whatever was purchased that day.
One of the more ubiquitous offerings are the deep red tomatoes, full of flavor and aroma. Other than ones you may grow yourself, you will be hard pressed to find tomatoes with better flavor. It’s no wonder that so many Greek dishes use them. Perhaps the fact that tomatoes play nice with a wide range of other foods might help.
Some quick notes before you begin:
Obviously the best dishes are made with the best ingredients. Fresh crab would be the best ingredient, but it is time consuming to pick crab out of the shells and it isn’t always readily available. You can easily use fresh-packed crab you find in the refrigerator aisle, or regular canned crab in the canned food section as your next best options. Just use real crab, please, not that colored fish they call “krab”, okay?
Fresh, picked when ripe tomatoes are also your best bet, but *ahem*, you will notice that’s not what I used. Many grocery store tomatoes can be kind of bland, especially out of season. Canned tomatoes often provide better flavor since the tomatoes used are picked when fully ripe (and many of them are grown right here in California!).
Ouzo is a Greek anise flavored liqueur that matches wonderfully with seafood. Unfortunately it is not easy to find here, especially better quality brands. Any other anise flavored liqueur will work fine, or you can just use the same amount of white wine instead. It will be good, trust me.
Like many sauces/soups/stews, this tasted great off the stove. It tasted multiple times better the next day. That rest time in the refrigerator gave all those ingredients a chance to really get together and have a ginormous flavor party. You might want to give yours a chance to do the same! Otherwise, you can prepare your pasta after making the sauce to give a little time for it to blend. Just cover the pan of the sauce and set your stove to low to keep it warm.
Tomato & Crab Pasta Sauce Recipe
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 to 4 large cloves of garlic finely chopped (about 1 loosely packed tablespoon)
- 28 – 30 oz canned diced tomatoes, or about 4 cups diced fresh tomatoes (choose a juicy variety)
- 1/4 cup white wine (I use a cheap Chablis)
- 1/4 cup ouzo (or use more white wine if ouzo is unavailable)
- 1 Tbsp. capers
- 1 Tbsp. brine from the capers
- 2 – 3 Tbsp. sliced fresh basil leaves, packed (sweet basil is fine, but if you have a stronger flavored variety available to you then use that if desired)
- 1 lb. cooked crab meat, fresh or canned
- salt & pepper to taste
- cooked pasta of choice
- finely grated hard cheese of choice for serving, optional (Parmesan, Kefalotyri, Ladotyri Mytilinis, etc. are great choices, and of course, crumbled feta would work just as well!)
Place the oil and garlic in a pan and heat on high. Stir the garlic around to keep it from scorching. Once the garlic just starts to sizzle and is aromatic, add the next five ingredients (not basil or crab). Turn heat to medium and continue to cook uncovered, stirring occasionally. You want the liquid to cook down almost to a paste. You should be able to leave a trail behind that stays open when you move a spatula through it.
Add the basil and crab and mix to combine. Continue to cook until the crab is heated through. If the crab has released a lot of moisture, you can cook it down more as desired. If you would like your pasta sauce to be a little thinner, you can add back water a little at a time until your desired texture is reached. Adjust seasonings as desired. Serve the sauce over the cooked and drained pasta and top with cheese of choice. Enjoy!