The Washington Post

Aunt Phil’s Blue Crab Sauce

Aunt Phil’s Blue Crab Sauce 24.000

Dixie D. Vereen for The Washington Post

Aug 16, 2015

This long-simmered family recipe is designed to feed a crowd inexpensively.

It starts with 6 to 12 live crabs and is therefore not for the squeamish cook; the lesser amount is enough to flavor the sauce, and a dozen will provide enough meat for guests who are patient enough to pick the cooked, sauced crabs.

To serve, toss the sauce with spaghetti or linguine, then spoon an extra helping of sauce atop each portion.

Make Ahead: The sauce tastes better after a day’s refrigeration. Reheat the sauce over medium-low heat, stirring until completely warmed through.


When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 24 servings; makes about 24 cups

  • 2 cups good-quality extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 to 12 fresh (hard-shell) blue crabs, cleaned (see NOTES)
  • Two 90-ounce cans San Marzano tomatoes, plus their juices (see NOTES)
  • 8 cloves garlic, run through a garlic press
  • One 28-ounce can tomato puree
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed
  • Freshly ground black pepper


Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the crabs and immediately reduce the heat to medium-low; cover and cook undisturbed for 30 minutes or until the crabs turn red.

Meanwhile, place the tomatoes and their juices in a large mixing bowl; use an immersion (stick) blender to puree until smooth.

Uncover the stockpot and stir in the garlic; cook uncovered for 15 minutes, then add the pureed tomatoes, the (separate) tomato puree, oregano, salt and several pinches of pepper, stirring to combine. Reduce the heat to low; cover and cook for 4 to 5 hours, stirring occasionally.

Cool, then transfer to one or more containers, with or without some crab claws; cover and refrigerate overnight. Refrigerate the crab bodies in a separate container; let them come to room temperature before serving in a separate bowl.

After you reheat the sauce, taste, and adjust the seasoning as needed.

NOTES: To clean the crabs, place them in a large bowl with lots of water and ice for 15 minutes. Pry off and discard the top shells, which will kill the crabs. Turn the crabs over and remove their small, thin tab (apron; in a center slot). Discard the entrails in the center of each body, and the spongy gills, rinsing out as needed. Use the crabs right away.

If the extra-large cans of tomatoes are hard to come by, substitute six 28-ounce cans of whole peeled San Marzanos, plus 28 ounces of tomato puree. (The latter is in addition to the puree called for in the recipe.)

Recipe Source

Adapted from Connecticut food writer Jocelyn Ruggiero, who blogs at

Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.

Email questions to the Food Section.

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Nutritional Facts

Calories per serving: 220

% Daily Values*

Total Fat: 19g 29%

Saturated Fat: 3g 15%

Cholesterol: 0mg 0%

Sodium: 140mg 6%

Total Carbohydrates: 12g 4%

Dietary Fiber: 4g 16%

Sugar: 9g

Protein: 2g

*Percent Daily Value based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Total Fat: Less than 65g

Saturated Fat: Less than 20g

Cholesterol: Less than 300mg

Sodium: Less than 2,400mg

Total Carbohydrates: 300g

Dietary Fiber: 25g

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