Redefining In-Flight Catering

Chef Todd’s Jaibas Enchiladas (Crab Enchiladas)


Ybor City, located in Tampa, Florida had a substantial Italian, Cuban and Spanish immigrant community back in the early 1900s. The Italian immigrants brought with them the tradition of serving seafood over pasta, which remained a prominent culinary influence in the growing city. The result was the birth of the essential Tampa dish, “jaibas enchiladas,” which basically is linguine with crab meat sauce. Everyone in town soon knew about the dish, and it became known as “Crab Chilao” in the local dialect. This is a simple and elegant dish, so almost every family in Ybor City developed their own version, and those recipes have been handed down over the past one hundred years. To recreate this historic dish, cook a batch of spaghetti sauce with boiled crab meat using the recipe below, and dig in!


  • 2 ½ pounds (1130 g) Blue Crab Claw Meat (canned)
  • ½  cup (120 mL) Olive Oil
  • 1 large Spanish Onion
  • 1 large Green Pepper
  • 6 cloves Garlic
  • 1 teaspoon (5 g) Crushed Oregano
  • ½ teaspoon (2.5 g) Cumin
  • ½ teaspoon (2.5 g) Thyme
  • 1 can – 1 pound, 15 ounce (870 g) Tomato Sauce
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 1 teaspoon (5 g) Kosher Salt
  • 1 teaspoon (5 g) Sugar
  • 1 can – 1 pound, 15 ounce (870 g) Crushed Tomato packed in sauce
  • 2 cups (475 mL) Beer (Cigar City Brewery, if you are in Tampa)
  • 2 pounds (900 g) Linguine
  • 1 pound (450 g) Live Blue Crabs (Marvin’s Oriental Seafood Market, if you are in Tampa)
  • 2 cups (450 g) Grated Romano Cheese


  • Heat olive oil in large pot over medium heat. Add beer and sauté onion and pepper until both are transparent.
  • Add garlic and sauté five more minutes (make sure not to burn garlic). Add tomato sauce, bay leaves, cumin, thyme, salt, pepper, sugar and oregano.
  • Give crushed tomatoes a quick swirl in blender or food processor and add to the sauce. Cover and cook for at least 3 hours, adding splashes of beer as needed.
  • The sauce should be thick. Add cleaned live crabs and crab meat and reduce to low heat and cook for another hour.
  • Prepare pasta according to directions on packaging. Serve with plenty of crusty Cuban bread and grated Romano cheese.

Serves: 6 to 8 people


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