When I was in Italy, one of the most enjoyable parts of the day or evening was cooking lunch or dinner with friends. We would talk, cook and drink wine and then enjoy the meal. Many times my friend would cook for me and I would help a little. This was a new concept for me because generally when home, I am the one doing the cooking and someone else will help with the cleanup! Reality, it is not as much fun as cooking with family or friends!
My friend in Italy suggested I learn Italian. So upon my return for some reason I decided to learn Italian. I tried Rosetta Stone but realized I needed a class as well. Last January I started my class with Isabella at Parla Presto. Lucky for me my cooking is so far better than my Italian! During the summer one of my friends from class came to visit. We decided to cook dinner together! Of course it had to be something Italian!
I thought a nice Spaghetti Vongole Made with Fresh Littleneck Clams would be a perfect Italian meal to make on Cape Cod! I found several recipes but the recipe from Mark Bittman was the one I chose. It was the best pasta I have ever made! It was fun cooking with a friend and lastly I learned a few new tips along the way!
The recipe called for 24-48 littlenecks and I splurged and went for 48! Before I started I saw in another recipe that I needed to clean the clams first, so I filled a big pot with cold water and soaked the clams for 15 minutes and then scrubbed then under running water and set aside.
For me what was interesting about this recipe is that it called for no water to steam the littlenecks! I was curious how it would work. It was magical and now I am wondering if I could do the same process for steamers! The broth from the clams filled the pot it was cooking in and it was pure clam juice.
Then I learned something from my friend that I did not know, even though the recipe only called for a half a cup of the reserved clam juice, if the pasta is al dente it can absorb more. Why let this clam juice go to waste, so she kept adding more of the clam juice to the pasta; the pasta accepted it gladly!
Spaghetti Vongole Made with Fresh Littleneck Clams
- 24 to 48 littleneck clams (the amount depends on size and your budget, or luck; in any case, more is better), scrubbed
- Salt (probably not much) and pepper to taste
- 12 ounces long pasta, like spaghetti or linguine ( I used a pound of pasta)
- 1/4 cup olive oil, or more
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
- 2 cloves sliced garlic, or to taste
- Chopped fresh parsley for garnish
Steam the clams in a covered pot (a glass top is very nice, voyeuristically speaking). You don’t need any liquid other than what the clams will release. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it.
After the clams open — it could take as little as 10 minutes — uncover and cool. Take the meat out and strain and reserve the liquid; make sure to leave any sand behind. Chop the clams if they’re big.
Cook the pasta in the boiling salted water. Put 1/4 cup olive oil in a deep skillet over medium heat. When the oil is warm, add the red pepper flakes and garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the clams and continue to cook, stirring, for about a minute. Add about 1/2 cup of the reserved clam liquid.
Drain the pasta when it’s nearly done and stir it into the clams. Cook, stirring, until the pasta is tender and the mixture is saucy. Add more clam-cooking liquid (or hot water or white wine), if necessary. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding a little more oil if you like. Garnish, and serve.
For dessert espresso over vanilla gelato or ice cream. Simple and delicious! Enjoy!