The mood in the North has become decidedly autumnal of late, so by God I will hang onto every shred of Summer left by eating food that reminds me of sunnier climates and hot mediterranean holidays. And in my opinion nothing says summer food more than a plate of spaghetti and clams or as the Italians say ‘Spaghetti Vongole.’
This is a great dish, so easy and to my mind clams are far superior to mussels. The meat in clams has a much sweeter flavour and the flesh tends to be a little bit more tender. However the real gold of this dish is the sauce left behind from all the natural juices from the clams, laced with a dash of white wine and a hit of chilli. A good hunk or two of bread is essential with this dish to mop up anything not collected by the pasta.
This is an Italian dish and I’m sure there are a horde of Italian mamas who would have an opinion on how I make my version of Vongole, the $64,000 question – tomatoes, with or without? I can see the merit in adding tomatoes to this dish but in the end I am a purist, I feel the tomatoes take away from the essence of the sea, I don’t want anything to interfere with that sweet tasting clam meat. Maybe I should have asked my Italian friend and fellow gourmand, Enrico from Venice, due to the fact that this dish originated in Venice? Enrico if you read this post, let me know what you think.
So this is my version of Spaghetti Vongole, you’ll need lots of bread and lots of white wine.
1kg clams, cleaned
a bunch of flat leaf parsley
2 fat cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
A pinch of dried chilli flakes
1 large glass of white wine
400g dried spaghetti
Salt and pepper
Put a large pan of water onto boil for your pasta. Then go through the clams making sure they are all tightly shut.
Get a large deep pan on a high heat and finely slice the parsley stalks. Put the spaghetti into the boiling water with a good pinch of salt and cook to the packet instructions, the pasta should be al dente. About 5 minutes before the pasta should be ready, get cracking on the clams.
To the large deep pan add some olive oil, then fry the parsley stalks, garlic and chilli flakes. After a few minutes when the garlic has started to take on some colour, add some salt and pepper, add the clams and finally the white wine. Give the pan a good shake and then place a lid on top. The clams will begin to open after about 5 minutes in the steam, keep giving the pan a shake every so often to encourage more steam to get the last of the clams to open. Take the pan off the heat, remove the lid and get rid of any clams that haven’t opened.
Drain the pasta and keep some of the cooking liquid. Add the pasta to the clams and toss everything together to make sure the pasta is well coated in all those lovely juices. Add a splash of the pasta cooking water just to loosen the dish up. Finish off with a handful of chopped parsley and a generous drizzle of olive oil – let slurping and lip smacking commence!