Spaghetti with Clams in a White Sauce, Spaghetti alle Vongole in Bianco

Squid Ink Spaghetti with Clams

Squid Ink Spaghetti with Clams

Spaghetti with clams is the quintessential summer dish, and is amazingly refreshing on a hot day. Though you can use canned shellfish packed in their juice to make spaghetti alle vongole, live clams are far better, and I also find frozen clams to be superior to canned. I generally omit tomatoes because I find that they overshadow the flavor of the clams.

  • An eight-ounce (200 g) jar of shelled clams, a 1-pound package (400 g) frozen clams, whose net weight will be about 200 g, or two pounds (1 k) small fresh live clams (how to prepare live clams)
  • 2 small cloves garlic, minced
  • A small bunch of parsley, minced
  • A half a dried red pepper, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 to 4 peeled and seeded or canned plum tomatoes, diced (optional)
  • Salt to taste
  • A pound (450 g) of spaghetti

Wondering about the picture?  The spaghetti are spaghetti al Nero di Seppia, spaghetti blackened with squid ink, which have a delicate fishy flavor that works very well with the clams. I had a package, and this was a good opportunity to put it to use.

Returning to the recipe, if you opt for fresh clams, they should be tightly closed and shouldn’t smell. Scrub them well and let them sit in salted water for several hours, so they can purge themselves of sand. Cook them, and when they open stir them, shells, liquor, and all, into the sauce. Half the fun of eating spaghetti alle vongole is fishing out the shells and sucking the sauce off them.

The above was advice, and now to the instructions: If you are using live clams, begin steaming them, using a pot or skillet that doesn’t have a non-stick surface for the shells to scratch – they are done when they’ve opened, and it won’t take long. Also, have the pasta water ready.

Using a large pot, gently sauté the garlic and the chili pepper in the oil, adding the parsley when the mixture starts to brown. Be careful not to let it burn, and if you’re using frozen clams (which come in a block, frozen in their juice), add them at this point and simmer, flipping the block occasionally so it thaws from both sides. Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti.

If you are instead using fresh or canned clams, add the cooked clams and some of their juice, or the juice of the canned clams, to the garlic mixture. If you are using tomato, add it too. Simmer the sauce until the pasta is done. If you are using canned clams, stir them into the sauce at this point; cooked longer, they become tough. Drain the pasta, stir it into the sauce, and serve without cheese.

Here is an easier way: if you are using fresh clams, scrub them, purge them, and cook them. Meanwhile, mince and sauté a clove of garlic, a red pepper, and a bunch of parsley. Add a couple spoonfuls of broth from the fresh shellfish or the juice of the canned shellfish to the garlic mixture, and season it with salt to taste. Stir the shellfish into the sauce, cook for a minute longer, and stir the sauce into the spaghetti. Serve without cheese.

Either method will serve four, and if you use canned clams this is perfect for camping where water is not a problem.

Note: If any of the shellfish are still shut tight when you’ve finished cooking them, throw them out! DON’T EAT THEM! They were already dead when you began to cook them and could make you quite sick.


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Categories: Fish Sauces for Pasta

Author:Cosa Bolle in Pentola

Italy boasts an astonishing number of varietals, denominations, and wines, and tremendous changes are sweeping the land. New wines are being created, new DOCs are being introduced, and the existing denominations are overhauling their regulations both to reflect the practices adopted by their member wineries and to favor improvements in quality. Even the most staid and stolid region can flower seemingly overnight, emerging with exciting new wines and wineries that require rewriting the enological maps and rethinking one's positions. And, of course, recipes too, because cuisine and wine are closely intertwined and it's difficult to imagine one without the other.


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