Food & Wine Best New Chef Douglass Williams’ pasta recipe is unforgettably delicious—don’t let this season go by without giving it a try.

By Bridget Hallinan
June 15, 2020
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Photo: Michael Piazza

Food & Wine restaurant editor Khushbu Shah has called chef Douglass Williams a pasta wizard, and if you try this dish, you’ll see why.

As a 2020 Food & Wine Best New Chef, Williams (owner of Mida in Boston) was featured in the Best New Chefs package we launched last month, and he shared his stunning recipe for summer crab carbonara. With one look, I was immediately drawn in. It was mid-May and I was craving a warm weather meal—I’m also never not down for pasta, and if it’s creamy, even better. So two weekends later, I found myself out at the grocery store picking up bucatini, capers, and crabmeat, already dreaming of dinner.

The finished meal was magical. Creamy, savory, and lemony, with a hint of brininess from the capers; rich, but not too heavy. And the best part? It was pretty quick and easy. I’m admittedly a slow prep worker (read: it takes me way, way too long to chop vegetables), so I usually budget in extra time when I cook in order to avoid eating dinner at midnight. But the prep wasn’t that involved, simply requiring beating some egg yolks, doing a little chopping and slicing, and zesting and juicing a lemon. I ended up using pre-grated Pecorino Romano cheese, so that also helped speed things up. I couldn’t find fresh crabmeat, either, and turned to canned instead. Still, the pasta was glorious.

With your ingredients at the ready, it all comes together in three steps. First, Williams instructs you to cook the bucatini until it’s very al dente (two minutes less than package directions for al dente), keeping it in a colander with a little olive oil mixed in so it doesn’t stick while it sits. (Don’t forget to save some pasta water for the sauce.) Next, lightly toast the garlic in oil and start adding ingredients to the skillet from there—capers and ground black pepper, a generous splash of reserved pasta water, and the pasta itself. Once the pasta is properly firm, it’s time to take it off the heat and incorporate the rest of the ingredients. And yes, that includes the egg yolks—if you’re afraid of ending up with scrambled egg pasta, don’t worry. Williams’ instructions have you constantly stirring, so there’s no time for you (or the eggs) to be frazzled.

And just like that, you’re done. Three recipe steps, 35 minutes, with gorgeously silky, crab-studded pasta as the end result. It wasn’t long after I’d cleaned my plate that I found myself reaching for the tongs to take some more and start round two. (I even was tempted by round three, but held off in the name of leftovers.) It tasted like summer on a plate, and I couldn’t get enough. Three weeks later, it still pops into my mind. And although I’m headed to the grocery store this week with meals already planned out, I wouldn’t be surprised if crab somehow claws its way into my shopping cart.