Tempura Fried Soft Shell Crab Puttanesca

Indulge in soft shell crab like never before with Chef Todd Stein's easy-yet-elegant recipes for fresh-made puttanesca and crisp tempura batter.


  • 1⁄4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 6 anchovy fillets
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 35 ounces (1 can) whole peeled Italian tomatoes with their juices, crushed by hand
  • pinch of sugar
  • 2 basil sprigs
  • 1⁄2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano
  • 1⁄4 cup chopped kalamata olives
  • 1 tablespoon capers, drained
  • salt & freshly ground pepper
  • 6 medium to large sized cleaned soft shell crabs
  • 2 cups rice flour
  • 2 cups club soda
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper


  • For the Puttanesca: In a large saucepan, heat the oil. Add the garlic, anchovies and crushed red pepper and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly golden, about 3 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add the canned tomatoes with their juices. Stir in the sugar, basil, oregano, olives and capers. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Simmer the sauce over low heat, stirring occasionally, until it thickens and is reduced to 3 cups, about 30 minutes. Season again with salt and pepper if necessary. Keep warm, or if making days ahead, cool and keep in a covered container in the refrigerator. Make sure to heat the sauce if working from cold when cooking the crabs.
  • For the Soft Shell Crab: In a large mixing bowl, combine rice flour and soda water until a smooth batter is made. Season with salt and pepper. Set a rack on a baking sheet. Heat 3 to 4 inches of oil in a Dutch oven, or medium sized large pot over medium heat until it registers 375° on a deep-frying thermometer. Dip the crabs in the tempura batter, letting any excess run off. Fry until golden brown, crispy and just cooked through; turning occasionally, about 5 minutes. Drain on the rack and then cut in half if you like.
  • To Serve: Place a small pool of puttanesca sauce on each plate and place crab on top of sauce. You can garnish with shaved fennel and arugula salad, watercress salad or anything you like.