Sea urchins are spherical, hard-shelled animals generally found on the seabed of every ocean. They usually live in cracks and crevices on coastal rocks and reefs. Despite the fact that it may appear odd to consume the spiny sea urchin, it is in fact relished in several countries around the world. Some of them include Japan, Chile, Italy and the West Coast of the United States.
They are consumed in several ways, both raw and in cooked dishes. Sea urchins have a delicate flavor, hence it is best served with dishes containing a neutral taste, like pasta or toast. People generally tend to describe it as a sweet yet subtle food, and it is frequently likened to oysters in terms of flavor.
Origin & Cultural Significance
Although it’s still unknown where the consumption of sea urchins first started, the gonads of both male and female sea urchins are considered to be culinary delicacies in various countries, particularly Japan.
In Japan, they are also known as uni, and are generally served raw as sashimi or in sushi, accompanied by soy sauce and wasabi. In Mediterranean cuisines, it is often consumed raw or accompanied by lemon. Also known as ricci in Italy, it is occasionally added to pasta sauces. In Chile, it is consumed raw along with lemon, onions and olive oil.
Sea Urchin Pasta Recipe
- Sea urchin - 6 oz.
- Mexican-style crema - 1/3 cup
- Dried long pasta (spaghetti or bucatini) - 10 oz.
- Kosher salt
- Extra-virgin olive oil - 1 tbsp
- Garlic (finely minced) - 2 cloves
- Shallot (finely minced) - 1
- Calabrian hot chile spread - 1 tsp
- Dry sake or dry white wine - 1/2 cup
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Finely minced fresh chives (for serving)
- Chive blossoms (for serving)
- Begin by placing aside 4 tongues of sea urchin for garnishing purposes. Now take a blender and mix the leftover sea urchin and crema. You can also use an immersion blender, food processor or mini chopper to combine the ingredients. Make sure to blend until the mixture is fully smooth. Set aside.
- Next, take a 12-inch skillet or a saucepan and add pasta to it. Pour enough water to cover the pasta. Add a little bit of salt. Turn the flame high and bring the water to a boil. Remember to keep stirring the pasta occasionally. Allow it to cook until it’s just shy of al dente and holds a small chalky core.
- In the meantime, take a large skillet and add olive oil to it. Heat it over a medium flame until it begins to shimmer. Throw in the garlic and shallot. Keep in mind to keep stirring continuously so they don’t burn. Cook until they soften but don’t allow them to brown. This should take about 2 minutes.
- Add Calabrian chile spread and mix until all the ingredients are combined well. It’s time to add sake or wine and cook until the liquid is lowered to less than 2 tablespoons. This should take you approximately 1 minute. Get the pan off of the heat and keep it aside until the pasta is properly cooked.
- Remove the pasta from the boiling water and immediately transfer it to the pan with the freshly prepared garlic/oil mixture. Scrape sea urchin purée into the pan and also add a little bit of pasta-cooking water.
- Turn the flame high and cook, stirring constantly. Continue until the sauce comes together and forms a creamy consistency. It’ll take you about a minute. If you see the sauce over-thickening, feel free to add more pasta water to thin the consistency. Add salt and black pepper to taste.
- Once done, divide the pasta in serving bowls, drizzling every portion with more extra-virgin olive oil. Top with a whole sea urchin tongue and minced chives, and you're done!
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 366Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 59mgSodium: 279mgCarbohydrates: 33gFiber: 2gSugar: 2gProtein: 13g