Wednesday, February 29, 2012


While visiting my local fish monger yesterday (Tuesday is a good day to visit the market—other than a Friday), I saw beautiful littleneck clams. Typically, I’m not very fond of clams because, many times, at restaurants, they could be a bit chewy.  Since the price was only $5.00 for a dozen of the beautiful mollusks (about 1 ½”- 1 ¾”  in diameter), I opted to give it a try and purchased a dozen in addition to the salmon and scallops that were on my list.  What should I do with them? I decided to make a pasta dish with a clam sauce – or clam sauce with pasta.  Since there was a package of one of my favorite pastas from the Italian market (spaghetti nero di sepia from PASTIFICIO F.LLI SETARO) in my pantry (squid ink spaghetti), and since I’m a lover of garlic (lots) I opted to create a dish with black spaghetti and a clam sauce simmered in white wine with lots of garlic.  Okay, nothing new from the traditional classic “linguini with clam sauce recipes” but with a (slight) twist.  I ensured to watch over the clams as each one opened up, sort of like a mother cat watching over as giving birth to each kitten.  Well… Let’s get back to the clams.  I shook the pan constantly and as each clam opened up, removed it and kept it in a warm stainless steel bowl, covered with aluminum foil.  When done, not only were the clams juicy, plump, succulent and melt-in-your mouth, the garlic flavor was there but not overpowering as one would think, considering how much garlic I used (about 20 cloves).  The squid-ink spaghetti added more flavor to the dish.  Probably, the best clams I’ve ever eaten.  And, I’ve tried making them before from time to time.  Was it the product or the cook?

4 weighted ounces black spaghetti or linguini
1/8 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
¾ cup chopped garlic (about 20 cloves chopped in the food processor)
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup white wine (chardonnay)
1/4 cup water
12 littleneck clams, scrubbed
½ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Freshly ground pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and season generously with salt. Boil the pasta until tender but still firm.

While the pasta cooks make the clam sauce. Heat the olive oil in a large cast iron pan over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and cook until softened but not browned, about 3 minutes. Add the pepper flakes and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the wine and water and increase the heat to high. Add the clams, cover, and cook, shaking the pan constantly.  As each clam opens, remove place in a warm stainless steel bowl. Continue until all clams are opened, about 4-5 minutes total.  (longer for more than 12 clams).

Add parsley to clam sauce; season with salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste.  Drain the pasta and plate in heated bowls.   Divide clams evenly among bowls.  Drizzle clam sauce on pasta and clams. Serve immediately.

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