This is possibly one of the easiest and most delicious recipes I prepare; fresh, satisfying and absolutely super fast to make. It is a must in our house once summer comes around, but if you found yourself celebrating Christmas in the south of Italy chances are you would be sitting in front of a gigantic bowl filled with clams deliciousness, as it is often part of the “Seven Fishes” celebrations.
The only thing that requires to be mastered, in order to achieve an absolutely perfect dish, is preparing the sauce while the pasta is already boiling. Clams do not sit well cooling off on the side of the stove for too long; they tend to shrink and change texture as they loose temperature. Therefore, since this sauce literally cooks in less than 10 minutes, I usually start sautéing garlic and hot pepper flakes; once the clams and the wine are in the pan I pour the pasta into the boiling water. This way by the time the pasta is hitting the strainer the sauce is at its optimum place. The method noted below is a good start to aim at flavor and easiness of use, once you mastered it try cooking all together, and for sure you will notice a difference.
NOTE: This recipe can be applied to various kinds of clams, mussels and even shrimps and prawns. Since size might vary, also cooking time will be affected. When working with smaller items that cook faster you might want to remove them with a slated spoon and set them aside while you keep cooking the sauce.
Serves: 4-6 / Prep Time: 15 min / Cook Time: 10 min
- 3 pounds Manila Clams or New Zealand Cockles
- 1 pound spaghetti
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for serving
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter (optional)
- 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon crushed chile flakes, plus more for serving
- ½ cup dry white wine
- Salt, to taste
- freshly ground black pepper , to taste
- 1 generous handful of Parsley, finely chopped
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
- In a large strainer rinse well all the seafood, shaking the shells well with your hands so to eliminate any sand or debris that might be attached to them.
- Wild caught seafood is sold alive, this means that when tapping your clams they should react and close tightly their valves; therefore discard all clams that remain open during the rinse as they are dead and might severely alter the flavor of your sauce… or worse make you sick.
- In a large skillet over high flame sauté the garlic in olive oil (and butter, optional), once the garlic starts browning on the edges add the hot pepper flakes and the clams right after. Toss around a few moment then add the white wine.
- Cook on a high flame for a couple of minutes, moving the clams around gently, making sure they all gets wet and cooking at some point or another.
- Once the pungent smell of alcohol is gone, reduce the flame to a generous medium and cover the skillet with a lid. Place it offset so to let some steam blow out of the pan, you want to reduce the sauce and cook the clams, if lid is placed tightly fitting the clams will cook very fast and sauce won’t have time to reduce.
- Let steam for about 3-5 minutes depending on size of clams, then remove the lid and turn off the fire under the pan. Let sit for a few minutes while you cook the pasta. If you would like to serve the spaghetti with a limited amount of shells in it you can remove the meat out of a few clams and toss it back into the pan… however I personally adore going through my plate and looking for all the shelled clams, it is fun and traditional!
- Drain your pasta al dente, add it to the sauce and place on a medium high flame for a bout a minute, just the time to toss it around and make sure that all pasta is evenly coated with sauce.
- Serve dressed with the chopped parsley, a drizzle of olive oil and an extra touch of crushed hot pepper.