Saffron Spaghetti with Santa Barbara Spot Prawns

Spot prawns are incredibly sweet, with plump, tender tails reminiscent of lobster. Be sure to remove the prawns from the pan before finishing the sauce to keep them from overcooking.

Saffron Spaghetti with Spot Prawns Recipe
Photo: Aubrie Pick
Total Time:
40 mins
4 to 6 servings


  • 1/8 teaspoon saffron threads

  • 2 tablespoons hot water

  • Kosher salt

  • 1 pound fresh asparagus, cut into 4-inch spears

  • 1 pound uncooked spaghetti

  • 1/4 cup olive oil

  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot

  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic

  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

  • 1 pound unpeeled head-on, tail-on raw Santa Barbara spot prawns (about 12 prawns)

  • 1 cup (8 ounce) dry vermouth or dry white wine

  • 1/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon

  • 1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh chives


  1. Place saffron threads in a small skillet; cook over low, swirling skillet constantly, until threads are dry and toasted, about 1 minute and 30 seconds. Crumble toasted saffron into a small bowl; add 2 tablespoons hot water, and stir to combine. Let steep 10 minutes.

  2. Bring a large pot filled with salted water to a boil over high. Add asparagus; cook, stirring often, until vibrant green, about 1 minute. Using a spider, remove asparagus, and plunge into a bowl filled with ice water; let stand 3 minutes. Drain and set aside. Add spaghetti to boiling water in pot; cook, stirring occasionally, until just al dente (about 2 minutes less than cook time specified in package directions). Drain and reserve 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.

  3. While spaghetti cooks, heat oil in a large, deep skillet over medium until shimmering. Add shallot, garlic, and crushed red pepper; cook, stirring constantly, until slightly softened, 1 to 2 minutes. Add asparagus, prawns, and saffron-water mixture; cook, gently turning prawns occasionally, until light pink in spots, about 2 minutes. Add vermouth; bring to a boil. Transfer prawns to a plate using a slotted spoon; continue boiling mixture in skillet, undisturbed, until liquid is slightly reduced and alcohol flavor cooks off, 3 to 4 minutes.

  4. Add cooked spaghetti to asparagus mixture in skillet; toss to coat using tongs. Return prawns to skillet; add butter, parsley, tarragon, and chives. Increase heat to medium-high; cook, stirring and swirling skillet constantly, adding reserved cooking liquid as needed (1/4 cup at a time) until a creamy sauce forms and coats noodles, about 3 minutes. Season with salt to taste. Serve immediately.


Spot prawn season runs from February through October. Spot prawns are available online from or from your local fishmonger. If unavailable, substitute jumbo sweet white shrimp from the Gulf Coast.

Suggested Pairing

Bright, minerally Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay.

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