Saturday, October 4, 2008

Spaghettini alle Vongole

We had a very memorable farewell meal for my father-in-law in a small, quaint Italian restaurant the other night. They had the BEST spaghetti alle vongole I had ever tried. The pasta was redolent with the taste of the sea and the clams were fresh, clean and flavorful.

So of course, I just had to try making the dish at home. My end product was not quite as transcendental, but better than most generic pasta with clams that I've tried. The trick to making this dish special is removing the pasta from the boiling water a couple of minutes before it's done and finishing the cooking process in the clam sauce/broth. The pasta then absorbs all that rich brininess and garlicky goodness in the sauce which makes for excellent eating.

1 lb. dried spaghettini (any other long noodle such as spaghetti or linguini would work too)
1 whole garlic, minced
1/2 cup olive oil
3 lbs. fresh clams, soaked to make sure they have no sand in them
1 can clams (yes, I cheated), drained, juice reserved
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley

1. Put clean clams in a deep pot with white wine. Steam until the clams open.
2. Discard clams which did not open.
3. Remove the clams from the liquid and strain the liquid to remove any sand. You can use a cheesecloth, which I didn't have, or a coffee filter, which I did have.
4. Combine the liquid with the juice from the canned clams. Set aside.
5. In a large pot, saute the garlic in the olive oil until the garlic barely has a hint of gold.
6. Add the whole and canned clams.
7. Add the clam juice and most of the parsley, reserving some for final garnishing.
8. Taste and season with salt (I didn't need to) and freshly ground pepper (this I did).
9. Simmer until you have about 1 and 1/2 cup of liquid left in your pot.
10. Meanwhile, boil pasta in lots of salted water. A couple of minutes before it's done, drain it and throw it into the pot with the sauce.
11. Toss the pasta with the sauce over low to medium heat until the pasta absorbs the rest of the liquid.
12. Serve with a sprinkling of fresh parsley on top.

Note: Remember, no cheese with this dish, please. Traditionally, seafood based pasta dishes are never served with cheese. Although as you can see here, I've never been a stickler for rules.

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