Photo by Real Simple (www.realsimple.com)
This dish is clearly on of my better half’s favorite…. but obviously not just hers. Given the number of “likes” she gets after she posts a picture of herself on Facebook, digging energetically into the steamy pot, I have to admit that there seems to be hardly anyone that would push this plate of succulent clams and linguine pasta off the table. But here is the thing… while happy to oblige preparing this Italian classic, I am one of those few (I assume) who will not touch anything resembling shell food. Yours truly never really understood how mankind ever became so hungry or desperate…. or both…. that they thought that eating that slimy interior of shells, sometimes even raw in the case of oysters, is a good idea. But obviously it happened.
I can however understand why my wife keeps asking me to prepare this dish. Have you ever tried to order Linguine alle Vongole in a Hong Kong restaurant? If you are lucky enough to actually find it on the menu, you are almost guaranteed to be charged an arm and a leg for 4 clams resting on a bed of overcooked pasta and cherry tomatoes and topped with a tasteless clam juice/wine or whatever concoction. Even if the stars are totally aligned for you and the dish is available and actually good…. the serving size will definitely leave you with wanting more of the same….
So, here is how I get my wife’s friends to drool over her Facebook postings:
Ingredients (serves 2 hungry people)
- 1-1.5 kg clams (cockles, manila clams, littlenecks), scrubbed clean
- 150-200 ml white wine
- 2 fresh chilies (preferably Red Cayenne), cut into thick slices (min. 5mm)
- 1 or 2 bulb of garlic, cloves peeled and cut into thick slices (2-3mm)
- 20 (or as many as you like) fresh cherry tomatoes, preferably on the vine
- a generous hand-full chopped Italian parsley
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 250 grams dried linguine pasta
- Cook the pasta in salted water until al dente, reserve a 1/2 cup of the cooking water
- Put olive oil, garlic and chilies into the largest saute pan with a cover that you can find and turn up the heat to low/medium to gently saute the garlic and chilies until just to the point where the garlic starts changing color. Depending on the heat this may take 8-10 minutes. Do not preheat the oil before adding the garlic or chili, as they will cook to quickly and may get burned!
- Quickly add the cleaned clams, stir briefly and then add the white wine
- Turn up the heat and cover the pan
- Occasionally shake the pan
- After approx. 5 minutes, the clams should be opened (depending on their size and type).
- Remove any unopened clams
- Add the cherry tomatoes and the parsley, stir
- Drain the pasta, add to the saute pan with the clams together with the pasta cooking water (which will add a bit of starch and help the sauce to thicken ever so slightly..) and cook for about 2-3 minutes on high heat, or until the sauce has slightly reduces stir occasionally
- Once done, add a bit more parsley for good looks….
- Serve hot with fresh, crusty sourdough bread (I know, that’s a lot to ask in this white bread town …)
- I never found it necessary to add salt or pepper to this dish. The sauce carries all the flavors you need…