Creamy Crab and Saffron Orecchiette

Creamy Crab and Saffron Orecchiette

When Jason and I were in Rochester, NY a few days ago, we went to the restaurant Good Luck and had a delicious plate of crab orecchiette with tarragon and French green beans. When we returned home, I decided to try and replicate our meal, but with spinach and fresh peas. This meal comes together pretty quickly, but is a little pricey due to the crab meat and saffron. If you want to cut costs, I would recommend omitting the saffron.


Serves: 6

Cost: $$

Skill Level: Easy

Time to Make: 50 minutes


1 pound crab

16 ounces orecchiette 

1 small yellow onion

3 cloves garlic

4 ounces diced pancetta

Crushed red pepper to taste

2 cups chicken stock

8-10 cherry tomatoes

Pinch of saffron (About 1/2 a teaspoon)

1/2 cup reserved pasta cooking water

1 cup fresh peas

2 cups fresh spinach

1/4 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Fresh chives for garnish

Olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste


Prep Ingredients: Mince the onion and garlic. Halve the cherry tomatoes. Mince about 1 teaspoon of fresh chives for garnish.

Make the Sauce: Add the pancetta to a large pot over medium high heat and cook, stirring frequently, until crispy about 5-6 minutes. Remove the pancetta from the pot, leaving the fat in the pot. 

Return the pot with the pancetta fat to medium high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring regularly until softened. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper and cook for 30-45 seconds until fragrant. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil for 5 minutes or until reduced slightly. Add the cherry tomatoes and reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes, gently crushing the tomatoes with the back of your spoon periodically. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Prepare the Pasta: Cook the orecchiette according to package instructions. Right before draining, reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Set the pasta aside. To the reserved cooking water, add the saffron and let stand as you finish the sauce.

Finish the Sauce: Add the crab meat to the sauce and simmer for 10 minutes over low heat. Add the saffron water and bring to a low boil. Stir in the peas and spinach and cook for an additional 5-7 minutes or until the spinach is wilted and the peas are crisp-tender. Stir in the cream and the lemon juice. Taste and season with salt, pepper, or more crushed red pepper if desired. Add the cooked orecchiette and toss to coat over medium heat for a minute or two until the pasta is warmed through and completely coated with sauce. Remove from heat.

To Serve: Divide pasta between bowls and top with the pancetta and minced chives. Enjoy!

Designer and photographer living in NYC. I work as a design manager in ed tech and I make tasty recipes in my spare time!