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Lent inspires a seafood item at Sarello's in Moorhead. Mussels, shrimp and scallops go into this dish.Dave Wallis / The Forum

Perfect dish for Lent uses 'fruits of the sea'

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Our featured recipe this week serves as a perfect dish to welcome the Lenten season.

In Italian cuisine, pasta is traditionally served as the primo piatto (first course) before the secondo piatto (main course). But Seafood Linguine is a classic dish that throws caution to the wind, marrying both courses together by combining the pasta with the protein, in this case, an abundance of gorgeous shellfish. All of this comes together in a deceptively simple, delicate garlic white wine broth.

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Seafood Linguine was originally created by peasants from Italy's coastal towns, where it is better known as Linguine ai Frutti di Mare, or fruits of the sea. In spite of its humble origins, this dish is so impressive in both appearance and taste that today you can find it featured in some of Italy's best restaurants.

While you can use any kind of shellfish to make seafood linguine, Tony chose mussels, scallops and shrimp for today's recipe because they have similar cooking times and each offers a different flavor and texture.

Mussels are sweet, tender and mild, full of briny goodness but not fishy in flavor. As they cook they become infused with the rich flavors in the broth. With their dark shells and light brown meaty insides, mussels bring a nice contrast to the rest of the dish. They are also more affordable and typically cook faster than clams, which can take quite a bit longer to open.

With their gentle white color and mild, sweet taste, scallops have a somewhat meaty texture which balances the "fluffy softness" of the mussels, Tony says.

The shrimp elevates the overall presentation with its beautiful pink color and adds more essence of the ocean with its briny, buttery flavor.

Seafood linguine is simple to put together and uses classic Italian pantry ingredients that most of us also tend to keep on hand: garlic, olive oil, white wine, fresh tomatoes. This is a quick-cook recipe, so take some time to prepare your mise en place before you begin cooking. Clean the mussels, mince the garlic, chop the scallions and tomatoes, and measure the remaining ingredients so that everything is in its place and ready to go.

Be sure to rinse the mussels under cold water before cooking to remove any sand or grit on the shell. Once the seafood has been added to the broth, cover the pan, as this will create the steam required to cook the mussels. Check the mussels periodically -- the dish is ready when the mussels have all opened, which should happen somewhat simultaneously. Adding butter toward the end of the cooking process will enhance the broth's flavor and richness.

The linguine must be hot upon serving, so drop the pasta in boiling water just before you start making the broth. Seafood linguine should be served immediately upon making, but we still think it's a great dish for entertaining thanks to its easy preparation and impressive presentation.

Serve this dish with a dry white wine and good, crusty bread for sopping up any remaining sauce.

Seafood Linguine

(Linguine ai Frutti di Mare)

Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients:

1 pound linguine pasta, cooked al dente

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 pound mussels, cleaned (all tightly shut)

8 ounces shrimp, peeled and de-veined

8 ounces scallops

1 cup white wine

1 1/2 cups clam juice

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs

4 tablespoons butter, unsalted (optional)

1/2 cup diced tomatoes

2 tablespoons sliced scallions

Directions:

Rinse the mussels in cold water to remove any sand and grit from the shell. Discard any mussels that have already opened.

Fill a large stock pot with water and bring to a boil. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of kosher salt and add the pasta. Cook according to the direction on the package, until al dente.

In a large frying pan, sauté the garlic in olive oil over medium-low heat for one minute, being careful not to let the garlic brown. Add the mussels, shrimp, scallops, wine, clam juice, lemon juice and bread crumbs. The breadcrumbs will help to thicken the sauce, but leave them out if you prefer a more broth-like consistency.

Cover and cook over medium-high heat until all the mussels have completely opened, approximately 5 to 8 minutes. If the mussels are allowed to cook past the point of opening, the shrimp and scallops will be overcooked, so be sure to periodically lift the cover to check the mussels. Discard any mussels that have not opened.

To make a richer sauce, add the butter at the end and stir until melted. Add the tomatoes and scallions and lightly toss to combine.

Transfer the hot linguine noodles to a platter or plate, and cover the noodles with the seafood mixture. Toss again if desired. For a more dramatic presentation, lay the mussels facing inward around the perimeter of the dish. Serve immediately.

-Home with the Lost Italian is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple own Sarello’s restaurant in Moorhead, Minn., and live in Fargo with their 9-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at dine@sarellos.com. All previous recipes can be found at http://thelostitalian.areavoices.com.

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