Recipe Review

I Tried Nigella’s Linguine with Crab and It’s Pure Perfection

published Jul 22, 2022
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Photograph of Nigella Lawson's Linguine with Crab, Chilli, and Watercress in a pink bowl with fork.
Credit: Justine Lee

I’ve learned a ton from food writer and TV cooking personality Nigella Lawson: How to make the best vegan chocolate cake, why you should never leave the house without a tube of your go-to condiment and a tin of flaky salt in the bag, and why “mee-cro-wavé” is actually the best, if not correct, way to pronounce microwave. Most importantly, though, Nigella has chiefly educated me (and the world) on the importance of eating for pure, shameless joy.

Nigella once said, “I think the only thing you should feel guilty about is not taking pleasure,” and this pleasure can come in any form you please. For Nigella, that’s often eating chocolate in bed. For me, it’s pausing to make a nice work-from-home-lunch. When I saw Nigella had posted a photo of her linguine with chili, crab, and watercress on Instagram, I was intrigued. So Sunday-me gathered every ingredient to prime Monday-me to make this luxe afternoon meal. Here’s what happened. 

How to Make Nigella’s Linguine with Crab, Chili, and Watercress

First, cook linguine according to package directions. Meanwhile, smash garlic cloves with flaky sea salt. Add chopped red chili peppers and smash once more until “you have a gloriously red-tinged mixture.” Nigella says the culinary weapon in this recipe is a large mortar and pestle (or pestle and mortar, the preferred naming convention for the Brits). I don’t own a mortar and pestle (although it’s on my to-buy list, as the kitchen tool has many merits), but with a little creativity I contrived a sensible stand-in with a heavy-duty zip-top bag and a meat tenderizer. This hack worked like a charm! With a few strikes of the hammer, I was left with a smooth garlic-chili paste. 

To the paste add white and brown crab meat, lightly break up with a fork, and pour over with olive oil. Add the zest and juice of a lemon. Mix well. Drain your cooked pasta and place it back in the pot or transfer to a serving bowl. Add the crab sauce and toss to evenly dress the noodles. Shower with a handful each of fresh chopped parsley and torn watercress, and enjoy! 

Credit: Justine Lee

My Honest Review of Nigella’s Linguine with Crab, Chili, and Watercress

Every bite of Nigella’s pasta was blissfully rhapsodic. The crab sauce lightly coats the linguine noodles like a dressing, resulting in a lot more flavor than many other pasta dishes with ladled sauce on top. Watercress and parsley are not greens I actively cook with but I was amazed by how well their peppery bite worked with the crab meat and chili. 

It doesn’t feel like an exaggeration to say what Nigella created is the ultimate summer pleasure. It’s also low-effort with tidal waves of reward. Case in point: I made it in under 30 minutes for lunch on a busy workday. The only cooking is boiling the pasta, and the chopping is neither involved nor built on precision. The recipe does cost a pretty penny, though. So unless the price of crab meat somehow dips or if I’m ever lucky enough to befriend a fisherman, it’s hard to see myself making it on a routine basis. 

Linguine with chili, crab, and watercress is a little luxury — a summer weekend getaway, a dish with the energy of a main character in a Nancy Meyers movie. Above all, it’s an invitation to Nigella’s London home where you’re bound to spend a glorious day cooking and eating with the Domestic Goddess. Maybe if you’re lucky, you’ll even catch her say “meecrowavé.”

Get the recipe: Linguine with Crab, Chili, and Watercress by Nigella Lawson

Credit: Justine Lee

If You Make Nigella’s Linguine with Crab, Chili, and Watercress, a Few Tips

  1. Don’t fear the salt. You’d be remiss to reduce the tablespoon of flaky sea salt because the cloves of garlic need something to bind with to create a flavorful paste. And for what it’s worth, at no other point in the cooking process will more salt be added. 
  2. You can substitute brown crab meat. Brown crab meat is a specification of lump crab meat that’s harder to come by in the States. The solution is simple: Make up the difference with more white crab meat. Readers of Nigella’s blog expressed how the recipe is also fantastic with canned tuna or capers. 
  3. Try the crab sauce on bread! Depending on how you time things, there may be a few minutes when it’s just you and the crab sauce while the pasta boils. I’d say (and Nigella can back me up on this) take advantage of this opportunity. Grab a hunk from any bread nearby, give it a light toast (or don’t if it’s pretty fresh), let it swan dive deep into the pool of sauce to catch a generous smear, then take a bite. There’s your chef’s treat.