Spaghetti alle Vongole
This is maybe one of the easiest and most impressive plates of pasta you can make. As always you need the best ingredients for a true flavour – fresh clams from your fishmonger, one of our maritime olive oils, from Puglia, Sicily or Liguria. As a guideline, you should get about 250g of clams per person. And between 100 and 200g of spaghetti per person (depending how hungry your crowd is or if you have more than one course). More pasta means you need more of the other ingredients (garlic, chilli, olive oil, parsley, and if you want, tomatoes).
For 4 hungry people:
500 gr Spaghetti
1 Kg fresh clams
One large clove of garlic, pealed
100 gr cherry tomatoes, chopped.
1 peperoncino (dried chilli) or a teaspoon of flaked chillies
Half a glass of dry white wine
2 tablespoons chopped parsley.
Which EVOO to use?
Paolo Cassini Extremum, because this amazing 100% Taggiasca EVOO is saline and lightly spicy with uplifting pine nut and almond aromas which work particularly well with vongole.
De Carlo Felice Garibaldi, this beautifully herbaceous Ogliarola Barese olive oil has a very fine tomato leaf and radicchio character with a lovely touch of spice that lifts spaghetti alle vongole to new heights.
Cutrera Gran Cru Nocellara Etnea, this monocultivar grown at high altitude on the slopes of Mt. Etna is packed full of fresh mediterranean herbs with a bright, slightly bitter finish – it works particularly well with seafood or raw fish.
Wash your clams in a colander and leave them for a couple of hours in cold very salty water.
Change the briny water once or twice before cooking.
1. As soon as you have put the spaghetti in the salty boiling water, turn on a large heavy based sauté or frying pan (you’ll need a lid for it) and pour a very generous amount of oil and one pealed clove of garlic (or two If you like it to be pungent), and a tea spoon of chilli flakes (or crumble a pepperoncino, but wash your hands!). Brown the garlic slowly, making sure not to burn the oil.
2. Once the garlic is coloured through, spoon out, turn the heat on max, give it a second to get the oil hot and put your drained clams in the pan, and cover and hear the clams pop and crackle. After a minute or so turn the heat down. After another minute or so check the clams should be mostly open, so you can spoon them out into a large bowl (if one or two are still closed leave them in the pan just that little longer so you don’t feel cheated. But if they don’t open take them out and discard – never ever try to open and eat a clam that doesn’t open with heat).
3. Turn your heat back up, put your tomatoes on, squash slightly with a wooden spoon and as soon as they start relaxing pour the wine in. Scrape the bottom of the pan to make sure all goodness is bubbling, and reduce the liquid until your pasta is almost ready (about 30 seconds to a minute before the pack says it’s ready).
4. Drain the spaghetti and put in the pan, mixing furiously and ensuring all pasta is well coated, for the time left (about 30 seconds).
5. Mix into a bowl with the clams, throw the parsley on top, mix well again with a large dash of olive oil.
6. Serve immediately and devour.
If you want it to be more garlicky, chop the garlic and keep it in the pan, rather than infusing the oil, but be careful not to burn it. The tomatoes are entirely optional and the use or not in a spaghetti alle vongole can be debated for hours. I think quality is the decider: if the cherry tomatoes are really good use them, if they are cold and hard play marbles with them.