This is one of those traditional recipes that I love: so simple, few ingredients, so fast and so perfect 🙂 you cannot make it better with some modern fancy tricks, it’s already perfect as it is 🙂
Of course, there are details to take care to have the best result, as always 🙂 if you cook it well and if you choose a good product, then it will be like having the sea in your dish.
The first step is the shopping: you have to buy fresh and good quality clams. In Italy we use the vongola verace or the lupino (cross-cut carpet shell or rayed artemis), but nowadays it’s very common to find also the Manila clam in the markets/stores. If you can find them, the first two types are to prefer (but the vongola verace is very rare nowadays).
I don’t know in other countries, but in Italy fresh clams must be sold in nets and not unpackaged, and there must be a label tracking the product. Avoid unpackaged clams, especially if you don’t know very well the seller: the risks could be high.
How many clams per person? Usually they are sold in nets of 1 kg: for a rich dish I suggest to count 1 kg of fresh clams for 2 people, maximum 3 people. So count 350-500 grams of fresh clams for each person (most of the weight is the shell).
Once you bought good clams, you have to purge them from possible sand and impurities: there’s nothing worse than having sand in your pasta 🙂
The best thing is to eat the clams in the same day you buy them, but you can keep them in the fridge until the day after: in this case wrap them in a wet towel and keep them in the lower part of the fridge.
Then before cooking them you have to put them in salted water for at least 3 hours, so they will “spit” the sand out. The water must be salted, the best is to use sea water, but not everyone live by the sea 🙂 so, first control if there are broken shells and throw them in the garbage, then take a water that doesn’t contain too much chloride and add 35 grams of coarse sea salt per each liter. Put the clams in a bowl with a small dish placed reversed on the bottom (in this way the sand will fall on the sides), cover them with this salted water and place them in the fridge for at least 3 hours. After this time remove them carefully from the water, with your hands, without moving the possible sand on the bottom. Wash them fast under running water and now they are ready to be cooked.
Tomato: in most of cases in Italy we cook this recipe without tomato, but if you like you can add some fresh tomato, but I suggest not too many.
Wine: someone like it, someone prefer just the pure taste of clams water. I like to use a little drop of white wine, but not too much.
Chili: someone prefer some freshly ground pepper at the end, someone the chili (but don’t exaggerate with it).
Shells in the dish: don’t leave all the shells but just few, just the most beautiful as decoration. Otherwise you will finish your pasta when it’s already cold, and it’s not good.
Pasta: someone prefer to finish to cook the pasta together with the clams in the last minutes, so you’ll have a more creamy result. Someone prefer to add the pasta to the clams just when it’s ready, to have a more liquid sauce (which is very good to clean at the end with a good bread). That’s up to each taste.
Let’s see now the recipe!
INGREDIENTS (2 people):
- 700-1000 g of fresh clams
- 200 g spaghetti (or linguine)
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 small chili
- 1 bunch of fresh parsley
- a little bit of dry white wine, let’s say 2 fingers of a glass
- extra virgin olive oil
- First purge the clams as explained above. Then start to boil the water for the pasta and take a large pan for the clams, heat just a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil with 1 clove of garlic. When the garlic gets some color remove it and add the clams. Heat them at medium/high heat, covered. After the first 30 seconds add the white wine and keep cooking them until they open. When they are all open switch off the heat (it will take few minutes, don’t cook them more, overcooked clams become more gummy), throw away the clams that didn’t open completely, keep the clams aside and filter their liquid with some filtering paper: in this way you’ll remove all the possible last grains of sand. Remove also most of the clams from their shell, just keep the most beautiful for decoration.
- When the water is boiling add the pasta, but without salt (the clams’ water is already salty).
- In the same time take a pan and heat a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil, 3-4 tablespoons, 1 clove of garlic and the chili. When the garlic gets some color remove it and add the liquid of the clams, and keep cooking at medium heat.
- When it’s missing 2-3 minutes for the pasta to be ready, add the clams to the pan, and then add the drained pasta. You’ll finish to cook it in the clams’ water during this last 2-3 minutes, at medium/high heat (be sure to have always some liquid in the bottom, the pasta must not attach to the bottom). Add also some of the pasta water: its starch will make it more creamy.
- When it’s ready add the finely chopped parsley.
- Serve it, add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil if you would like it, and enjoy it 🙂
Pasta: “Spaghetti di Gragnano” from Pastificio Gentile