Astice or aragosta?

The Italian words astice and aragosta are both commonly translated as “lobster“. Many Italians even use the words interchangeably, so don’t feel bad if you’ve always thought they mean the same thing! However, astice and aragosta are actually labels for two completely different species, and in this post we’ll learn to tell them apart.

From a scientific perspective, astice belongs to the Nephropidae family, and aragosta is a member of Palinuridae. Astice, therefore, could be more precisely translated as red lobster, while aragosta refers to spiny lobster or rock lobster. But don’t spend too much time looking for a red lobster in the market – an uncooked astice is usually dark brown with yellow spots, or blue: a red lobster only becomes red after it’s been cooked. The aragosta, on the other hand, is usually orange, red-brown or purple-brown, but never bright red or bright blue.

Homarus gammarus
So this one is the red lobster…right? This is confusing.

Since color can be so fickle, it might be easier to differentiate between the two animals based on their equipment: an astice has a hearty pair of pincers up in front, while an aragosta, instead of claws, has two very long antenna.

But enough splitting hairs! Purists and top chefs would probably disagree, but you and I can consider astice and aragosta to be interchangeable in Italian cooking. You’ll see many recipes with names similar to the ones below:

astice o aragosta alla catalana  = red lobster or spiny lobster, Catalan style

spaghetti con astice (o aragosta) = spaghetti with red lobster (or spiny lobster)

taglierini all’astice e aragosta = noodles with red lobster and spiny lobster

As you can see from these recipes, aragosta can be swapped with astice…or vice versa…or you can use them both at once. Buon appetito!

If this is the kind of learning you like to do, pick up a copy of Italian Through Food!

© 2018

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