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.
- 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).
Scrub the clams under running water, discarding any that don’t close when you tap them.
Red sauce version
- 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).
- Remove the clams and boil the cooking liquid down until it has reduced by half. Keep to the side.
- Take the meat out of the clam shells and discard; keep about twelve in their shells for a garnish.
- 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.
- 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.
- Cook the spaghetti or linguine and drain.
- 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
- Mince the garlic and heat in a large pan with the oil. It must not go brown.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- Toss the parsley over, mix and serve.
- 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!