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16th August
2010
written by Steph

Linguine alle Vongole

I’ve said it before on this blog, but I’ll say it again: yes, you can eat pasta during the hot and humid days of summer! I realize the thought of a thick, heavy dish doesn’t necessarily appeal when the weather is breaking 100º, but there are ways to lighten up your pasta dishes to make them appropriate and appealing. The big thing is cutting back on the sauce – rather than something heavy or creamy, summer is the time when I turn to “barely there” sauces that are more like a drizzle and explosion of fresh ingredients. Your tastebuds and your A/C will thank you!

This simple dish of linguine and clams will whisk you away to Italy (where I’m sure they eat pasta all year round, regardless of soaring temperatures), all from the comfort of your own home. For inspiration, I combined two recipes, one from Rasa Malaysia, and one from Mario Batalli, courtesy of Epicurious. Some of you may be a bit leery of cooking shellfish at home, but I assure you nothing could be simpler than this dish. Best of all, this dish only has about 15 minutes of active cook time, so you won’t spend your time slaving in front of a hot stove. Elegant and simple, this is summer dining at its best!

Ingredients (for two)

  • 1.5 lbs of fresh littleneck clams, cleaned and scrubbed (see below for info on cleaning clams)
  • 8 oz linguine… use the best you can afford
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • ¼ tsp of crush red pepper flakes (add more if you like your dishes spicier)
  • ½ cup white wine (we used Riesling, which I’m sure is a sin, but it worked for us… use whatever you like to drink)
  • 6 tbsp of parsley, finely chopped (+ 2 extra tbsp for garnish)
  • juice from ½ a lemon
  • salt to taste

Method

  1. Begin by preparing your clams: to clean clams, it couldn’t be simpler. Place your clams in a bowl of cool water and leave for about 30 minutes. During this times, the clams will ingest the fresh water and expel the sand they may have picked up in the wild. Fail to do this and you risk having gritty clams in your dish, which would certainly ruin the appeal! Once clams have rested, remove them from the water and place in separate container. Then scrub each one individually to remove any grime/grit on the exterior of the shell, then place in FRESH water until ready to cook.
  2. In a large pot, bring a salted water to a boil. Cook your pasta according to the directions MINUS ONE MINUTE so that it is quite firm. Then strain and set aside.
  3. While pasta is cooking, heat a large pan (one that has a lid!) over medium-high heat. Add in your butter and olive oil. Note that the pan should be hot, but not so hot that it smokes.  Then add in your garlic and sauté until just lightly golden, about 30 seconds (keep the pan moving so that it doesn’t burn!). Then add in your clams, parsley and red pepper flakes and sauté for another 30 seconds. Then add in your white wine and let it simmer for a minute.
  4. Cover pan with lid and reduce heat to medium so that clams can steam. After about 4 minutes or so, check on clams and see if they are starting to open. They should take about 7-8 minutes to cook… After they are open, remove lid and let the sauce simmer for another minute or so, adding in the fresh pasta.
  5. Season with salt and fresh lemon juice. Then garnish with fresh parsley and serve!

Buon appetito!

What did I tell you? Could not have been more simple, and this was my very first time cooking clams at home. I was amazed at how quickly the dish came together, but with fresh seafood, you never need all that much time to cook it, otherwise you risk things getting rubbery and ruined. Tony had never had clams before and he scarfed this down and happily said he’d eat it again. I certainly plan to make it again, and might even try adding in canned tomatoes along with the white wine for slight variation (which Mario Batalli’s recipe calls for).  As a white pasta, however, this was really scrumptious – not at all fishy – and was great for a simple Sunday dinner, but would also be suitably impressive to serve to guests!

A few notes on purchasing clams: Go to where you know the seafood is fresh and look for clams that are closed. If the shells are slightly open, tap them and see if they close up. Because the clams are alive, you’ll want to get them home asap, and if you must place them in a plastic bag for transportation purposes DO NOT tie it at the top otherwise you’ll suffocate and kill your clams.  When you get them home, keep them on ice in your fridge until you’re ready to clean them. Ideally, you should prepare clams the same day you purchase them.

As for cooking the clams, only eat the ones that open up during the cooking process. Any shells that remain closed should be discarded as this means the clam was dead upon start and could make you ill if ingested. Luckily we had no such rotten clams in our bunch and if you choose your clams with care, neither should you!

A really scrumptious dinner that’s great for any time of year! Put your fears of shellfish at home behind you and give it a go! Such a rewarding and filling meal and with minimal effort! Buon appetito!

4 Comments

  1. 08/16/2010

    I have never had this dish, but it does sound and look amazing! I am really glad that you included the information on choosing, cleaning, and preparing the clams. Since I have absolutely no experience with that, it’s mighty helpful! Great post, Steph! I am going to try it. I will let you know how it goes!

  2. 08/16/2010

    YUM, I should make this dish soon!

  3. i’m not a seafood fan but the photos are great! i do eat pasta in the summer but tend to dial down the sauces, like you suggested. one of my favorites is the tomato sauce recipe from smittenkitchen.com. it’s my summer-time go-to. :)

  4. 08/17/2010

    @ zibilee: I had to do a bit of digging on clam maintenance myself so I figured it would be helpful for first time cooks to have the info easily accessible in a single post! I hope you do give this a try and that it’s a great success!
     
    @ Rasa Malaysia: You’re the one who inspired me, so it’s nice to give a little something back… ;)
     
    @ nat: I know the smitten kitchen recipe to which you refer… I’ve not tried it yet, but I really must one of these days to see if it can possibly be so good… it looks so simple!

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