Seafood Linguine al Cartoccio (in foil)
Seafood linguine al cartoccio is a fabulous dish to serve to guests! This popular Central-Southern Italian recipe is made with a delicious fresh seafood sauce and pasta, wrapped in foil or baking paper and baked in the oven.
Linguine con frutti di mare al cartoccio
What is ‘al cartoccio’?
Al cartoccio is the Italian term for baking food in a foil or oven paper packet. This method is used mostly for seafood here in Italy. Probably the most well-known and appreciated of those seafood dishes is spaghetti or linguine al cartoccio (in foil).
What seafood can you use?
I first ate seafood pasta al cartoccio in Sicily many years ago! It was love at first bite (or forkful) The sauce is made with a mixture of different seafood; usually clams and/or mussels, prawns and/or scampi plus calamari or octopus. Some people add fish, such as red mullet or sea bass. The ingredients depend on what’s fresh and available. Here in Italy, restaurants usually serve seafood pasta with fresh seafood. To make this recipe at home, you could use frozen uncooked seafood. I wouldn’t use canned.
Once the sauce is ready, the pasta (usually spaghetti or linguine) is cooked very al dente and then mixed with the sauce and everything is enclosed in a foil packet and baked in a very hot oven for 10 minutes. You can make individual foil or oven paper packets or one large one. We like to make individual ones.
Some seafood pasta al cartoccio history.
Although I ate seafood pasta al cartoccio for the first time in Sicily, this dish (or something very similar) is popular in Tuscany, Abruzzo, Sardinia, Puglia and, of course, in Campania. All regions with long coastlines and a long history of fishing!
In fact, spaghetti al cartoccio is a signature dish in the Amalfi Coast, near Naples, where they claim its invention. There, they say a certain Salvatore Cavaliere invented seafood spaghetti cooked ‘al cartoccio’ in 1965, and it became the key menu item of his brother’s restaurant, the Ciccio Cielo Mare Terra. This restaurant is still famous today for this dish and apparently celebrities such as Jackie Kennedy and Marcello Mastroianni have eaten it there!
However, there’s another restaurant in Naples called Il Bellini, where the seafood linguine al cartoccio is a big draw. Especially as they also claim its invention, saying that the present owner’s grandfather created the dish with 3 other cooks. Certainly Il Bellini is famous for their seafood linguine in foil. Actually they don’t use foil these days, but some kind of vegetable paper!
Restaurants don’t like to give out the ingredients of their star plates and I haven’t eaten spaghetti or linguine al cartoccio at either place (much as I’d like to!). So, I don’t know how different their dishes are. I do know that this is one of the best seafood pasta recipes ever!!
Foil or oven/baking paper?
We used a double layer of foil for each packet! I say ‘we’ because my lovely Sicilian hubby helped me make this dish. Actually, he did most of the work! When it comes to seafood he’s the boss in our kitchen! Most recipes I found online called for foil too. However, nowadays many people prefer to use foil less than in the past. For this dish, there are 2 schools of thought. Some say foil is better because it really seals the steam in. Others prefer oven/baking paper because they say foil can burn the pasta or the pasta may stick to it.
Seafood linguine al cartoccio will impress your guests.
Although it takes time to make (mostly to prepare the seafood), this seafood linguine al cartoccio is seriously worth it. Those last 10 minutes the sauce and pasta finish cooking in the oven, make this an incredibly flavourful dish. We used linguine, you can also use spaghetti. But, we like linguine because this pasta is slightly flat and has more surface area. It really absorbs the flavours of the seafood and tomatoes.
The other great thing about this recipe is you can prepare it in advance and cook in the oven just before serving. I wouldn’t prepare it days before. However, we have made seafood linguine al cartoccio in the morning and served it to guests for dinner. My guests are always totally impressed by this dish and yours will be too.
If you do try this seafood linguine al cartoccio recipe, I’d love to hear what you think. Please write a comment here on the blog or post a comment on the Pasta Project Facebook page.
Your feedback means a lot to me!
Some other seafood pasta recipes on The Pasta Project
- La Calamarata; pasta and calamari recipe from Naples
- Sicilian pasta with sardines and wild fennel
- Spaghetti with mussels alla Tarantina recipe from Puglia
- Pasta alle vongole
- Poached salmon and asparagus lasagna
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Seafood Linguine al Cartoccio (in foil)
- 320 g linguine (12oz) or spaghetti
- 250 g fresh mussels (9oz)
- 250 g fresh clams (9oz)
- 200 g fresh shrimps or prawns (7oz)
- 200 g small squid (7oz)
- 8 fresh scampi (2 per person)
- 300 g tomato pulp (10 oz) or peeled sauce tomatoes
- 3 garlic cloves peeled and finely chopped
- 2 shallots peeled and finely chopped
- 1 handful fresh parsley finely chopped
- 1/2 glass brandy or white wine
- salt to taste
- 3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Prepare the seafood
- Clean the mussels well, scrub and rinse them under running water and remove the ‘beards’. Discard any that are broken or open.
- Wash the clams in cold water and remove any that are open or with broken shells. Some kinds of clams need a lot of rinsing if they have sand in them. But you can also filter the liquid after you have precooked them, so don’t worry so much about the sand.
- Clean and prepare the fresh squid. Pull the tentacles away from the body. The tentacles, head and innards should separate easily from the body. Remove the quill from inside the body and discard. Clean the body by running it under a tap or cleaning it in a bowl of water.
- Remove the 'ears' from either side of the squid body and remove the skin with your fingers. (optional we don’t do it with very small squid)
- Cut the tentacles just below the eyes, be careful not to cut the ink sac which is located near the innards. Remove the 'beak' at the base of the tentacles. Discard the head, innards and ink sac (although the latter can be used for squid ink pasta!)
- Cut the squid body into rings and the tentacles into small pieces if you want to use them.
- Wash the prawns/shrimps. Remove the head, legs and main body shells from some of them, leaving the tail. Also remove the vein along the peeled prawns’ backs. but keep some intact. They impart a better flavour and make the dish look more attractive.
- Wash the scampi. We didn’t peel them but just cut along the scampi undersides to make opening them easier.
Make the sauce
- Put the clams in a deep frying pan and cook covered over a medium to high heat until they have opened. (about 5 minutes). Do the same for the mussels separately.
- Allow the shellfish to cool a little and then remove the meat from most of the shells keeping some intact. Discard the empty shells and then filter the liquid that the clams and mussels have produced through a muslin cloth or very fine filter. Don't discard it and keep the 2 separate.
- Chop the peeled garlic, the peeled shallots and the parsley finely.
- Put a pot of water on to boil for the pasta. When it starts to boil add the pasta. You probably don’t need salt as the seafood will already be a little salty.
- Heat the olive oil and the chopped garlic cloves and shallots in a large deep pan, add the squid, scampi and prawns and cook for 5 minutes, then sprinkle with the wine/ cognac and let the alcohol evaporate. We used cognac and flambéed it! But that is optional!
- Add the tomato pulp or peeled tomatoes and cook for about 10 minutes. Add the mussels and clams (shelled and with shells) and continue cooking for 3-5 minutes. To prevent the sauce from drying out too much, add some of the previously filtered cooking juices from the clams first and then the mussels. (The clam juice tends to be more flavourful)
- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
- Cook the pasta less than or half the time for al dente according to the instructions on the packet. Then drain it.
- Add the drained pasta to the pan with the sauce, mix well and place a single portion of pasta and seafood on a rectangular double sheet of baking paper or aluminum foil about 50cm long. Close each packet well and bake in a preheated oven at 200 degrees for 8-10 minutes.
- Serve your seafood linguine al cartoccio sprinkled with parsley in the individual foil packets. Of course, you could put it into a plate but half the fun is eating it out of the ‘cartoccio’. Remember to provide napkins, finger bowls and a bowl to put the shells etc.
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