Spaghetti alle Vongole (clams)

Based on Shellfish Lover’s “Spaghetti alle Vongole

Spaghetti alle Vongole can be either white (“bianco” – with no tomatoes) or red (“rosso” – with tomatoes). Choose whichever one you prefer.

This recipe serves 4.

Ingredients

  • 2 kg small clams, such as palourdes
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil plus a little extra
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 400 g spaghetti or linguine
  • salt and pepper

Ingredients for the red version

  • 450 g (1 lb) tomatoes, peeled, deseeded and chopped
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon tomato puree
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar

Additional ingredient if you’re making the white version

  • half a glass of dry white wine or vermouth
  • a dried red chili pepper, or dried red chili flakes (about a teaspoon, according to your taste).

Preparation

Scrub the clams under running water, discarding any that don’t close when you tap them.

Red sauce version

  1. Bring a small amount of water (depth of 1 cm or half an inch) to the boil in a large pan. Add the clams, clamp on the lid and shake the pan over the heat for a few minutes until all the clams have opened (throw away any that refuse to open).
  2. Remove the clams and boil the cooking liquid down until it has reduced by half. Keep to the side.
  3. Take the meat out of the clam shells and discard; keep about twelve in their shells for a garnish.
  4. Heat the olive oil in another pan and heat the onion and garlic until translucent – make sure they don’t go brown. Add the tomatoes, tomato puree, parsley (saving a little to garnish) and bring to the boil.
  5. Strain the reserved clam juice. Boil the sauce to the required thick consistency; add salt and pepper, and the sugar if it seems too tart.
  6. Cook the spaghetti or linguine and drain.
  7. Reheat the tomato sauce, add the shelled clams. Pour the sauce over the pasta, add the clams still in their shells and the remainig parsley garnish; serve.

White sauce version

  1. Mince the garlic and heat in a large pan with the oil. It must not go brown.
  2. Meanwhile cook the pasta until it’s very nearly ready; drain it, add a little olive oil to prevent it sticking, and cover to keep warm.
  3. Add the chili to the garlic and oil in the pan. Add the clams, bring up the heat and pour in the wine or vermouth; cover and shake over the heat for a few minutes until all the clams have opened (pick out and discard any that refuse to open).
  4. Add the drained pasta to the pan and mix everything around; put the lid on for another minute or so until the pasta is ready to eat.
  5. Toss the parsley over, mix and serve.

Chef’s Tips

  • You can also make this dish with linguine instead of spaghetti if you prefer a more substantial mouthful.
  • In Italy, Parmesan cheese is not normally served with seafood dishes, though who’s to stop you if you like it.
  • It is possible to use canned clams for this recipe though you will end up with a rather different dish. We recommend you try it with fresh clams and taste the difference!
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