A summer time tradition for South Philly Italian-Americans was to rent a house at the Jersey Shore, usually in Wildwood. The highlight of that summer vacation was a spaghetti and crab night. Crabs were caught or bought. The delicious crustaceans were cooked in an fabulous red sauce. Then everyone sat down to a feast at a table set with newspaper and crab crackers. After everyone feasted on the crabs came a bowl of spaghetti that was covered with the incredible crab sauce.
My friend Roe, who is my go- to source for all things South Philly, shared her Nana’s story and recipe. And now I am sharing it with you. Enjoy!
“My nana lived to 2 months shy of 105 yrs old. Born on July 4 th 1902 . ( she died her hair black until 98 yrs old,) 😂She was a phenomenal cook and just wanted people around to feed . She made the cover of the Courier post when turning 100 yrs old and was quoted as saying her secret to a long life are the simple things of enjoying family , friends and good homemade cooked food. She would never go out to eat. She and my mom made me so many wonderful meals . I hope my daughter, Liza, continues the tradition.”
“This dish is so tasty and I make it every summer. Everyone in my family wants an invite when I’m making this dish. I can have 20 people in no time. This is a messy version of a table in my rental last year. I was missing my serving dishes but “make do “ is my motto. No one cared about the table setting ,it was all about the food. My grandson ask me if we are having them this summer at our shore rental and of course ,I said, “yes!” He had a big smile on his face.”
South Philly Crabs and Spaghetti
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup of EVOO
- 1 bunch of basil, roughly chopped
- 1 tsp dried chili flakes
- 2 cans (28 ounce each) San Marzano tomatoes
- 6 whole cleaned crabs
- 1 can of jumbo lump crab
- 1 cup of white wine
- 4 tsp salt
- 1 lb of spaghetti
- Add the onion, garlic, chili pepper, basil and olive oil to a large pan
- Cook until the onion is translucent and tender
- Increase flame to high heat and add the whole crabs
- Cook for 10 to 15 minutes
- Crabs will start turning a bright orange color and begin to caramelize
- Deglaze the pan with the white wine for roughly 3 minutes
- Add the tomatoes and salt
- Lower heat to slow simmer and continue to cook for 2 hours
- When read to serve, cook your pasta al dente
- Add the can of crab meat to the sauce and cook only until it is warmed
- Drain your pasta and add the pasta to your sauce or ladle over the sauce.
I hope you have enjoyed meeting Rose Calandra and maybe you can find some crabs and try this summertime favorite.
Talk soon, ❤️💕 Bernadette