Spaghetti with Almond Cream, Fresh Crab, Chilli and Marjoram

Nut-thickened sauces are popular in some regions of Sicily including the Aeolian Islands where Ben Tish first came across them in a dish of spaghetti with almond sauce and mussels. For his cookbook Sicilia, Ben Tish  combines a similar almond cream sauce with fresh crab, chilli, marjoram and lemon juice for a rich and summery pasta dish.

Spaghetti with Almond Cream, Fresh Crab, Chilli and Marjoram from Ben Tish' Sicilia

Read our full review of Sicilia by Ben Tish.

This dish also works well with basil, parsley or tarragon substituted for the marjoram.

Spaghetti with Almond Cream, Fresh Crab, Chilli and Marjoram

Nut-thickened sauces and ‘creams’ are very popular in parts of Sicily. Nuts are natural thickeners and packed with flavour. I first came across a pasta dish similar to this when traveling through the Aeolian islands one summer. An idyllic beach side café had just a couple of pasta options and the one that took my fancy was a spaghetti with almond sauce served with tiny wild mussels that were an ocean in every bite. I think there may have been lemon too. It couldn’t have been more idyllic for the time and place. This is my version.
Servings 4 servings
Author Ben Tish


  • 100 g blanched almonds
  • 300 ml full-fat milk
  • 400 g dried spaghetti
  • extra virgin olive oil for cooking
  • 2 fresh red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 50 g brown crab meat
  • 100 g fresh white crab meat, picked over to remove any shell or cartilage
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • a handful of marjoram leaves
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


  • Put the almonds and milk in a saucepan and set aside to soak for 30 minutes. Then bring to the boil and cook for 5 minutes. Pour into a blender and blitz to a smooth sauce consistency. Season and reserve.
  • Cook the pasta in boiling salted water according to the packet instructions.
  • Meanwhile, add a lug of oil to a large saut. pan and gently heat, then add the chillies and fry lightly to soften. Now pour in the almond sauce and stir in the brown and white crab meat. Squeeze in some lemon juice and check the seasoning.
  • When the pasta is cooked, transfer it to the almond sauce using tongs. Drizzle in some olive oil and add a ladle of the pasta water.
  • Stir the pasta through with the tongs, ensuring the strands are all coated. If the sauce is too thick add more pasta water and continue to stir or toss through.
  • Transfer the pasta to warmed bowls (doing this with tongs gives a neat presentation) and sprinkle over the marjoram, then serve immediately.


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Kavey Eats received a review copy of Sicilia by Ben Tish from publisher Bloomsbury Absolute. Book photography by Kris Kirkham.

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