Dinner Rush! Thin Spaghetti with Crab, Chile and Lemon Breadcrumbs

So what if the calendar says summer vacation is over? No one gave the memo to those warm September nights that are perfect for the porch. Keep life simple for just a few more weeks with this surprisingly refined pasta dinner.

The star hitter here is crab, which can be a steep investment, depending on what you reach for. Crabmeat often shows up on market shelves in a fresh-packed container or in a can, and the different labels (claw, special, lump, jumbo lump) denote the part of the animal that the meat was harvested from. Claw and special tend to be on the cheaper end, whereas lump and jumbo lump will be more of an investment. While there’s a time and place to highlight the beauty of jumbo lump crabmeat, there's no need to splurge for this. Pick up a can of claw or special grade; they're going to be just as flavorful.

The sweet crab paired with the hot and red chiles and cool mint make for a menage a trois that’s equally delicious served warm or at room temperature. So take your time and savor the slow end to a simple summer.

Thin Spaghetti with Crab, Chile and Lemon Breadcrumbs

Total Time: 17 min
Prep: 5 min
Cook: 12 min
Yield: 4 servings
Level: Easy
1 pound thin spaghetti or vermicelli
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, smashed
2 to 3 red chiles, thinly sliced

3 to 4 slices whole-wheat bread, coarsely pulverized in a food processor

1 lemon, zested and cut into wedges, divided
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Romano cheese
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
1 pound canned or fresh-packed crab meat, picked over for shells
1 1/2 cups baby spinach, coarsely chopped
4 sprigs mint, leaves picked and torn

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook to al dente according to package directions. Drain the cooked pasta well and reserve.

Place a saute pan over medium heat with the oil and butter. Add the garlic and chiles and cook until the chiles are tender and the garlic is very aromatic, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the aromatics from the pan; mash the garlic with a fork and reserve with the chiles. Add the bread to the pan and toast, tossing frequently, until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Turn the breadcrumbs out into a bowl and toss with the lemon zest and cheese. Season with salt and pepper, and reserve.

While still hot, toss the cooked pasta with the crab, spinach and reserved smashed garlic and chiles; season with salt and pepper. Divide the pasta between serving bowls and garnish with the prepared breadcrumbs and torn mint. Serve with wedges of lemon.

NOTE: Coarsely chopping the bread in a food processor makes for larger and somewhat chewy breadcrumbs that stand up well against the pasta. If you don’t have a food processor available, reach for some whole-wheat panko, or see if a local bakery makes its own breadcrumbs that will get the job done.

Patrick W. Decker’s life revolves around food. Always has, probably always will. As a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and past member of the culinary teams for Food Network stars Rachael Ray, Sandra Lee, Marc Forgione and Bobby Deen, he now works on digital production for FoodNetwork.com, CookingChannelTV.com and Food.com in NYC by day and develops recipes at his home in New York’s Hudson Valley by night. You can see what he’s up to by following him on Twitter & Instagram at @patrickwdecker or visiting his website at patrickwdecker.com.

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