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08 April 2011

Spaghetti con le Vongole


If a promise of eating ice cream to a child works its wonders, this pasta dish does to mine.  For a child of five, it is a tad strange to latch on to this dish as a topnotch favorite. In fact, I recently cooked this as a desperate move to suppress an erupting tantrum. 


Spaghetti con le vongole is a Neapolitan pasta dish by origin but widely diffused all over Italy as it is a classic seafood pasta favorite.  If you are in a seafood restaurant, you will most likely find this in the menu.  There are two variants, one with fresh tomatoes and the other without. There are also some with zucchini. At home, I always cook the white one. If you want your pasta with tomatoes, just add a few pieces of halved cherry tomatoes.  The cooking procedure is exactly the same.


There are two kinds of vongole that are sold in Italy.  The vongole veraci (Ruditapes decussatus) or carpet shell clams and vongole filippine (Tapes philippinarum) or Philippine clams, introduced in the waters of Venice in the 80's but the vongole veraci are more widely used because they are tastier and more tender.  

    Because there is a limited number of ingredients in this dish, every ingredient is essential in contributing its unique taste.   Being married to a person who despises garlic, I have learned to tone down my garlic usage in cooking.  This specific dish though is exempted from my usual limited garlic rule.  After some trials & errors, I have learned that the garlic is actually fundamental in boosting the taste of the vongole.  So I finally had the garlic binge I thought I would never have again.  I quadrupled my habitual singular garlic and I finally got the perfect taste I was looking for.   



    Spaghetti con le Vongole

    Ingredients:
    Serves 4
    • 350 - 400 grams spaghetti
    • 1/2 - 1 kilo vongole veraci (ruditapes decussatus) or carpet shell clams, purged
    • 1 cup or 250 ml. white wine
    • bunch of fresh parsley, minced
    • 2 - 4 garlic cloves, halved
    • 1 chili, seeded and chopped
    1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. When it boils, add some salt then the spaghetti. Follow the number of minutes suggested in the box. The sauce should cook before the spaghetti.
    2. While waiting for the water of the pasta to boil, prepare the sauce.
    3. In a saucepan, sautè the garlic & chili.  When it starts to color, move the pan away from the fire for a few seconds.  
    4. Add the clams. Cook until they all open. Discard the ones that didn't open if there are any.  
    5. Cook until the natural water of clams is reduced.  Pour the wine.  Maintain a medium-high fire until the alcohol has completely evaporated, about 2 minutes.  Return the fire to low-medium.
    6. Simmer until the sauce is reduced and has become denser.
    7. Don't add salt because the clams are already salty.
    8. Mix the cooked pasta over low fire.  
    9. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil & sprinkle the rest of the parsley.