It was 12 years ago when Kitty and I happened on to a fabulous restaurant in Palermo, Sicily and discovered the dish known as Pasta Ricci. Our waiter did not speak English and my Italian was quite limited. The best that I could determine is that it was pasta with seafood. However when my pasta arrived there was nothing discernible on it as seafood. It was actually quite nondescript. But oh, the taste! The next day we learned from our local driver that we had been eating pasta with sea urchins. I'm not sure that if I had known that at the time if I would have ordered it. Perhaps ignorance is bliss. I have been chasing that flavor ever since and have never met anyone that's ever heard of it that is until we met Jaime and Keith Bussell. The Bussells are guests that have been coming to our inn for several years. They are well traveled and very food savvy. Last year when I mentioned the pasta ricci, not only had they heard of it, they had recently prepared it. So imagine our surprise and delight when FedEx arrived with fresh uni and the Bussells showed up to prepare it for us. It was as wonderful as we remembered it in Sicily and perhaps even more so because of the thoughtfulness of our guest chefs.
Should you happen to travel to Sicily, I recommend that you search out this dish. If you happen to have access to fresh uni, I recommend you cook it for yourself. It's quite easy.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it until it tastes like the sea. Meanwhile lightly saute 3 - 4 cloves of chopped garlic with a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes in a half cup of extra virgin olive oil. The garlic should be soft but not brown. Turn off the heat until the pasta is done. When the pasta is done, add it to the olive oil along with a 1/4 cup of the pasta water. Add the uni and toss well until the uni breaks up into a creamy and unctuous sauce. Serve immediately and do not add any cheese. Buon appetito!