Linguine alle Vongole

This is one of the easiest pasta dishes to master, and it’s very pot-friendly.

No, not talking about reefer, although technically since I’ve only cooked this in California and Oregon, that’s fine too. This version of the classic linguine with clams dish only requires one pot for boiling the pasta and one sauté pan for the clams and sauce, which makes it a perfect dinner for an AirBnB stay where kitchens aren’t always well-stocked.

Aside from its simplicity, this dish is fun because it gives you the chance to master the subtleties of al dente pasta and how to gently form a sauce that will cling to it. When these are done correctly, the brininess and sweetness of some gorgeous clams will shine through (I last made this dish with amazing little guys from Tomales Bay).

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 2 LB fresh small clams (little necks, cherry stones, or cockles will work)
  • 8 oz dried linguine
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 2-3 TBSP olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 3-4 oz cheap dry white wine like Pinot Grigio
  • Grated parmesan, toasted breadcrumbs and chopped fresh parsley to finish

 

Instructions

  1. Add about 1/4 cup of kosher salt to a large bowl or pot and fill with cold water, stirring to dissolve the salt. You want the solution to be noticeably salty, like sea water. Add the clams and let sit for 30 minutes. This will purge them of any extra sand (trust me there’s nothing worse than sand in a dish like this). Drain and rinse, then repeat the process to ensure they are fully purged…you should see zero or minimal sand in the bottom of the bowl after 2-3 of these cycles. Thoroughly rinse clams and set aside.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, add garlic and red chile flakes and cook 1-2 minutes until the garlic is aromatic but not brown. Add the clams, gently shaking the pan to coat with the oil, then add white wine and cover pan and cook for 3-5 minutes.
  3. Uncover the pan and check for clams that have opened. Using tongs, transfer the opened clams to a bowl and let cool. When all clams have opened, remove pan from heat.
  4. Remove the meat from the shells of all except for 6-8 clams and place in smaller bowl. This makes the final dish easier to eat (and a higher clam to pasta ratio). A few with the shells are nice for presentation.
  5. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Normally you’d add salt to pasta water, but in this case because of the brininess of the clams, I find the extra salt a bit too much. Cook linguine or spaghetti according to package instructions, tasting along the way. You’re shooting for a texture that is just shy of al dente…a little firmness to the pasta but not crunchy. The final 1-2 minutes of cooking will take place with the sauce in the sauté pan.
  6. While pasta is cooking bring the sauté pan with the sauce back up to temperature over medium heat. When the pasta is ready, transfer to pan using tongs, along with 1/4 cup of the pasta water (scoop it out with a measuring cup), add clams, and raise heat slightly.
  7. Shake and stir the pan for a couple minutes to ensure the pasta is well coated with the sauce…if it reduces too much and looks dry, add a little more pasta water. Taste the pasta to ensure this final step of cooking brings it to al dente.
  8. Remove from heat, add parmesan and chopped parsley and continue to shake and stir with tongs until everything is evenly coated. Serve in warm bowls and top with more parmesan and breadcrumbs.

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