Or “spaghetti and clams” as Mr. Sinatra might say…

You could say I have an affinity for “pasta with clams” recipes. Others might say I have a “clam problem”, but I prefer the “affinity” label.

God help me, those other people were right for many years — I simply could not walk by a pasta vongole recipe without giving it a try … long pasta with white sauce, red sauce — no sauce — napping clams dispatched in any number of ways … steamed, sautéed, grilled, or roasted was a recipe I had to try.

I’m still on the hunt for the grail “clams with red sauce” recipe, but after 20+ years I think Lidia Bastianich has shut down my “white sauce” quest with her “Linguini with White Sauce” Neapolitan recipe.

Littlenecks, garlic, oil, a little red pepper and dry oregano, parsley and pasta water… all the regular suspects are here, but I think it’s the anchovies she melts into the sauce that’s the difference maker. You truly don’t taste the wee fishes but they add depth and unctuousness that seems incongruous with the simple dish nested in the pasta bowl before you.

If you have a clam “affinity”, you NEED to try this recipe. It’s so good, the clams are happy to die for this sauce … no really, there’s a waiting list. 😉

Frank and clams?

I can’t tell you how I came to associate Frank Sinatra with great pasta vongole … maybe they had some Sinatra playing in the background at the restaurant I first discovered pasta and clams (some little North Beach joint in San Francisco) … no idea.

The only recipe I possess that actually IS associated with Mr. Sinatra is a “Bar-B-Que’d Leg of Lamb” dish that will be cooked and tested for DwTRP as part of our upcoming Independence Day celebration.

Anyway, born purely of my imagination, I have this sense that Frank loved him some vongole and imagine him sharing a plate of spaghetti and clams with his girl (Lauren Bacall in this case) at Patsy’s in Manhattan or some little checkerboard Italian place in Jersey. Weird huh?

Oh, and if you happen to have first hand knowledge that Frank really didn’t like clams … just keep it to your self, man. Don’t ruin it for me! (joke … sort of)

Minimalist recipe … minimal changes…

This is such a simple pasta dish; there’s no stock, clam juice or wine … just pasta water. When the clams add their liquor and the liquid melds with the garlic, oil and anchovies … oh my. All I can say is that you better queue up some nice warm bread to get all the sauce.

The only change of substance I made to the recipe (noted below) was to reduce the amount of olive oil — both upfront and at the end. I haven’t developed the same appreciation for the oily mouthfeel that seems to be “the way” with the Euro-set.

The Spaniards, French and Italians tend to hit their dishes with finishing oil, and though I love the flavor, the texture/mouthfeel can be a bit off-putting to me — not always, but I didn’t need it here. The ugly American in me I’m sure. Hey, feel free to oil up (so to speak) as you see fit, but do try this recipe.

 

The best Pasta Vongole...
 
Adapted from Lidia Bastianich's "Linguini with White Clam Sauce" recipe from her book: LIDIA CELEBRATES AMERICA
Ingredients
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (scox - reduced from original 6 TB)
  • 6 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 4 anchovies, sliced
  • 36 littleneck clams, scrubbed (scox - and purged*)
  • ¼ teaspoon peperoncino
  • ¼ teaspoon dry oregano
  • 1 pound linguine (scox - or spaghetti ... avoid capellini)
  • ¾ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
Instructions
  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil for pasta. In a large straight-sided skillet, heat 4 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add sliced garlic and cook until sizzling, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add anchovies and stir until the anchovies break up and dissolve into the oil, about 2 minutes.
  2. Add the clams to the skillet, along with the peperoncino and oregano. Ladle in about 2 cups pasta water. Bring to a simmer and cover until clams open, about 5 to 7 minutes. As the clams open, remove to a bowl. Meanwhile, add linguine to pasta water.
  3. When all the clams are out, increase heat to high and add ½ cup of the parsley. Cook until reduced by half. Meanwhile, shuck about ⅔ of the clams.
  4. When the linguine is al dente and the sauce is reduced, add the pasta directly to the sauce. Cook and toss until the pasta is coated with the sauce. Add shucked clams, clams still in the shell and remaining 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, Cook a minute more to blend the flavors and serve.
Notes
I removed the addition of finishing olive oil at the end of the recipe … again, the first time I made this it was too oily. * No matter how wonderful the sauce, the dish will be ruined if you bite down on sand or grit. Clams live in sand and no matter how well you scrub their shells, they always seem to harbor some sand within, so I've taken to purging them via the "cornmeal method" (google it for details). It seems to work well ... still get a rare bit-o-grit but there's no "100% solution". If you really want Reggiano, I'm not going to get upset about it (sit down Mario, it'll be alright), BUT please take a couple of bites sans cheese first to taste the elegant "simple complexity" of this amazing dish.

 

 

 

 

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  • Susan

    Yes, Yes, Yes, this is truly the “best you ever made”… Can’t wait to have it again!

    • vs_guy

      Probably gonna be September bub … clams are not your friend in the summer months.

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