My husband Allan loves pasta with clams. He has always enjoyed various pasta and seafood combinations but one night in Italy, he had the ultimate version of his favourite: Lingine alle Vongole (linguine with clams). We were at Ristorante Romano, a Michelin-starred seafood restaurant on the Tuscan coast. The seafood at Romano’s was fresh and impeccably prepared with typical Italian simplicity. When we returned home, we decided to develop our own version of this classic pasta dish.
The key to this dish is using high quality ingredients. Choose small, live clams in their shells and be sure to discard any that don’t open when cooked. Fresh parsley, oregano, garlic and hot peppers are preferable over dried and keep the dish fresh and light tasting. Sautéeing the whole garlic and peppers in the oil and then discarding them gives the pasta a hint of garlic flavour and heat without overpowering the dish. However, if you prefer a bit more punch, feel free to mince some of the garlic and peppers and leave them in the sauce. Although I usually prefer fresh pasta, this is one dish where dried works better. If linguine isn’t available, substitute spaghetti or bucatini instead.
I guarantee that this recipe is simple to prepare: Allan doesn’t normally cook (aside from the occasional crème brûlée) and he can put this together in no time. The pasta and clams cook at roughly the same time so everything should come together at once.
Allan’s Linguine alle Vongole (Linguine with Clams)
Makes 4 to 6 servings
- Approximately 18 small clams, in their shells (such as baby clams, littlenecks, etc.)
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil + 2 Tablespoons to finish the dish
- 2 small hot peppers, such as Thai bird chiles OR 1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
- 2 whole garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh parsley + extra for garnish
- 1-1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh oregano
- 1/4 cup reserved pasta cooking water
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 lb / 500 grams good quality dried linguine
- A large deep skillet with a lid (or some way to cover it, such as a large plate)
- A large pot to boil pasta
- Rinse clams in cold water to ensure the shells are clean and free of grit. Make sure all of the shells are closed tight and discard any whose shells have opened.
- Heat a large pot of salted water to cook the pasta. Bring to a boil on high heat.
- In a large, deep skillet, heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil on medium-high heat. Add the garlic cloves and whole chile peppers. Sauté for about 5 minutes or until they turn golden brown, watching carefully so the garlic doesn’t burn. Remove the garlic and chiles from the pan but keep the oil in the bottom of the skillet.
- Place the clams (in their shells) in the skillet and add the wine, chopped oregano and 2 teaspoons fresh parsley. Cover with the lid and let simmer on medium heat.
- Place the linguine in the pot of boiling water. The clams and pasta will take about the same amount of time to cook, about 9 to 10 minutes. Set a timer for 9 minutes.
- After 9 minutes, check on the clams. The shells should be wide open. If a few are still closed or partially open, give them a couple more minutes. Any that do not open in that time should be discarded. Test the linguine – it should be al dente. Reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water before draining the pasta and set it aside. Drain the linguine.
- Add the cooked linguine to the skillet with the clams. Toss to coat, adding a bit of the reserved pasta water if it seems dry. Drizzle with remaining 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil and stir thoroughly.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper and garnish with a bit of fresh parsley.
- Serve with crusty bread and a glass of dry white wine.
Note: Italians don’t usually eat cheese with seafood pasta so if you want to keep it traditional, refrain from garnishing with grated parmesan.
Bon Appétit and Enjoy!