Linguine with Sea Urchins

Recipe by Gordon Smith, private chef and former owner/chef, Gordon’s Basil St. Cafe.

I’ve always been a chef in San Diego for San Diego. In the ’90s, Basil St. Café was one of the first organic restaurants around. I was also a private chef for Betty Ford, James Garner, and Michael Eisner. Now I’m the president of Slow Food San Diego. Slow Food is a reaction against fast food. It’s about fresher food, fewer pesticides. It’s better for the environment and tastes better — it’s about real, clean, good food.

We work to help small farmers and diverse peoples maintain their way of life. This is a new age of chefs. They’re the ones who are really helping these farmers stay alive. There’s also a big cry from the people who eat at these restaurants. They are willing participants in a new change.

What’s interesting right now is that I’m working with the sea-urchin divers. Sea urchins are a local, sustainable food right in our kelp beds. We have the best sea urchins in the world, and I am trying to get them to go directly to the chefs. They use them for things other than uni now. The chefs are all real excited. Sea urchin will be a big item in San Diego cuisines, I suspect. There was a time when calamari was rare in restaurants. It was called squid and no one ate it. Then they called it calamari and look what happened. You should try linguine with sea urchin — it’s amazing and really easy.


  • 1 lb fresh sea urchin roe, chopped in thumbnail-size pieces
  • 3 scallions thinly sliced
  • 1 yellow zucchini sliced paper thin
  • 2 1/2 cups roughly-chopped overripe plum tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
  • Juice and zest of 2 lemons
  • 2 T hot crushed-pepper flakes
  • 1/2 T sea salt
  • 1 lb linguine
  • 1/2 cup finely-chopped Italian parsley (about 2 bunches)

How to Do It

How to prepare sea-urchin roe

With a sharp knife or shears, cut a neat circle out of the shell top. Use a towel or gloves to protect your hands. Remove the cut-out circle (it should be about 3 inches around) from the shell, using the knife and a spoon. Discard the liquid from inside the shell, and using a spoon, remove and discard the black parts. Reserve the clusters of roe.

How to make the pasta

In a large earthenware serving bowl, place half the urchins, scallions, zucchini, tomatoes, olive oil, lemon zest and juice, hot pepper, and sea salt and allow to stand. Cook pasta according to package instructions until al dente and drain well. Pour pasta into bowl with urchin-roe mixture and toss like a salad to mix well. Place remaining urchins over top, sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Note: Fresh sea-urchin roe is available at Catalina Seafood in the Morena District; call for hours when they are open to the general public.

Catalina Offshore Products.
5202 Lovelock St. San Diego, CA 92110
Phone: 619-297-9797; Fax: 619-297-9799

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