I remember holidaying in Maratea in the South of Italy with my parents as a child, and they loved its local sea urchin, or riccio, to the extent of ordering it at every restaurant we visited. I hated it then, but as my palate developed, my tastes changed.
Working in Senegal, I came across the ingredient again in the form of uni ice cream, which, with its unbelievable, powerful flavour, was the first thing I tasted that changed my mind. The presence of the sea in its taste was unlike anything I’d tried, and from there I began to cook with it.
At Uliassi, in Italy, I experimented with sea urchin and began to appreciate it more. I love the diversity that can be seen between different varieties, and it is this that the Spaghetti Ricci plays with. Using an AOP (Aglio, Olio e Peperocino) base, al dente Abruzzo pasta is combined with both Italian and Japanese sea urchin. The intense brininess and flavour of the Italian version is counterbalanced by the pretty, delicate Japanese variety that is so popular in Hong Kong.
120g good spaghetti, preferably fresh
Half a chilli, finely chopped
30ml extra virgin olive oil (about 2 tbsp)
10g chopped parsley
20g Italian sea urchin
20g Japanese sea urchin
2 cloves garlic, whole
- Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pan on a medium flame and roast the garlic, then remove the cloves and replace with the chilli.
- Boil the pasta for 8 minutes in a separate pot, then transfer cooked pasta to the pan of oil and chilli to keep cooking, and stir frequently.
- The pasta will release its starch, turning the water creamy.
- Add the Italian sea urchin and turn off the heat, then give the pan a few strong tosses to combine all ingredients well. The water by now will have thickened to a sauce.
- Add fresh parsley and plate your pasta. Finish with a couple of Japanese sea urchins on top.