Red Sauce How Italian Food Became American






Aragosta Fra Diavolo

By on Tuesday, June 14th, 2022 at 8:48 am | 75 views

Aragosta is the Italian term for lobster. Lobster fra Diavolo is an American invention. So what the heck is Aragosta Fra Diavolo?

Lobster fra diavolo was likely invented in the United States by Italian immigrants drawing on similar spicy recipes using chicken. Lobsters in the Mediterranean were smaller and already a rare commodity by the nineteenth century.

However, American Maine lobsters were widely available. In New York around the turn of the century, lobster palaces were known for their showy displays of champagne and lobster dishes. They were the sort of places young finance bros went to show off their wealth.

Italian restaurants were also growing in popularity at the time and lobster fra diavolo was birthed in this time. Pollo fra Diavolo was an Italian dish included in Pellegrino Artusi’s cookbook collection in 1891, so the name is likely borrowed from this spicy dish.

The 1948 recipe collection from Maria Lo Pinto includes the aragosta fra diavolo, a version of lobster fra diavolo. Using the Italian term for lobster intends to link the dish to Italy — but this dish is truly an American creation.

Aragosta Fra Diavolo is an early example of appealing to the desire for authenticity. Using an Italian word adds credibility to the collection of recipes as a genuinely Italian dish, even though it’s not.

Fra Diavolo evolved through the twentieth century as well. Originally it was a sauce for a whole lobster. In Lo Pinto’s recipe, the lobster remains in the shell, albeit sliced in half. She doesn’t suggest serving it over pasta either.

It had grown more common by the post-war period to remove the lobster meat and add it to a spicy tomato sauce to serve it over pasta. Not only did this technique make it easier to eat, but allowed adulterating the sauce with cheaper seafood such as a crab.

Adapted from The Art of Italian Cooking, Maria Lo Pinto, 1948.

Sauce served over baked lobster.

Ingredients

2 lobsters
2 cups canned plum Tomatoes
¼ cup oil
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1 clove garlic
¼ tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp oregano

Instructions

Slice lobsters lengthwise.
Place shell down in baking pan.
Heat oil and garlic.
Add tomatoes, parsley, oregano, red pepper, and season with salt and pepper.
Simmer ten minutes.
Pour sauce over lobster.
Bake lobster 20 minutes.