Spaghetti with White Clam sauce, an Italian classic with its simplicity and luxurious flavor. Another easy recipe for that busy work week. So if you love seafood, get that spaghetti out of the cupboard and steam those clams!
Spaghetti with white clam sauce would not have been a favorite of mine as a child. As a matter of fact, any seafood for that matter. I would have to say that the first time I had seafood was when I was in my late teens and even then I was a bit picky. However, after that, I began to try new things, being more adventurous and all, and the experience of this spaghetti with the clams and a simple yet elegant white wine sauce had me hooked and still to this day a huge favorite.
I would have to say first of all that I am in deep gratitude to my beautiful wife Nicoletta for what she has brought to my life. The travel and the food I have experienced with Nicoletta has been an amazing journey and the excitement of things to come keeps us vital and young.
Having said this, it was her that hooked me on Spaghetti con Vongole (clam). The first time I had them in Italy was at my mother and father in law's. Before arriving at their house a cute flat in Rome, Italy, we had ventured to a fish market to pick up fresh fair. The crazy thing is that the first thing we do as soon as we arrive in Italy is go to the fish markets located in Fiumicino. A sea area filled with amazing fish markets and fish mongers.
Let me set the scene for you. We park on this street, get out of the car and the first thing that hits you is this slight breeze weighted with a good amount of humidity. Then that smell of the sea, briny, earthy, organic and rich, giving rise to a hunger and craving for some just caught on ice sea fair. Our walk is filled with lovely pictures of boats, ships. The sounds of the sea gulls flying and proclaiming that they have found heaven here with all the rich goodness available from King Neptune of the Mediterranean Sea. Then in the distance we start to see the markets, ice flowing like gold keeping today's catch fresh and aromatic. The bartering begins as we decide to get some vongole (clams), moscardini (baby squid), rombo (a type of fish), alici (small sardines) and some gamberetti (shrimp). I know it seems a bit ambitious, but the scene and the product has a way of making you delirious and in a craving stupor. The back and forth of the customer and fish monger goes on and in the end a good firm hand shake and some funny remarks by the fish monger on how he was just robbed and his kids will starve tonight, lol, not really, just some of the dramatics of this passionate culture.
The recipes we did and the enjoyment we had making them in that small kitchen was amazing. The smell of the sea wafting in the air and the deliciousness of every dish is one that I can still taste on my buds. I might add one that I truly miss when I am away from Italy.
Back to the Spaghetti with white clam sauce.
Key ingredients for this spaghetti is of course the pasta, a good quality Italian, with good flavor. Second some garlic and onion, white wine, fresh parsley, a pinch of red chili flakes, and as always some great quality organic cold pressed extra virgin olive oil. I think they should invent a short version for this oil something like OCPEVOO, lol. Let's not forget the star of this dish, the clams! Well they are not like the ones from Italy, we don't have a sea close by. They are from the Pacific Ocean and are called Pacific coast savory clams.
Having lived in Edmonton Alberta all my life, it took me several years to find jewels of fish markets. This particular market was a referral given to us by some friends. I would have to say I was not disappointed in the least. The people at Ocean Odyssey, were both helpful and knowledgeable. We ordered the clams to be picked up the day they came in fresh from the coast.
I am going to share with you key notes on cooking and preparing this dish. Ones that I have learned from my wife Nicoletta, who I might add is the "pasta queen". When it comes to spaghetti with clams, bar none Nicoletta will have you slurping and eating this dish with vigor and passion.
It is important to really wash and soak the clams in salt water, if they are really fresh and you watch closely, you will sea the shells open and the clams come out and all that sand falling to the bottom of the bowl. I would have to say I was a bit sad knowing they were that fresh and my heart felt for those creatures, but I know in my heart that I am truly grateful for the blessing of this recipe and these clams, and I hope that this will ease the discomfort. I learned from a monk once that if you are grateful and you respect nature then the sacrifice has served its purpose.
The next key element is the spaghetti cooked to a nice al dente texture. I usually cook it a bit less as I like to finish it in the pan with the clams and sauce.
For the clams, a nice quick steam in a pot with some salted water. This will open the clams. If some of the shells don't open throw those out, they are not good. Trust me on this one, eating those could cause you a stomach ache you will never forget.
When the clams are finished, take some of the clams out of the shell and into a bowl, about a 60-40 ratio of clams out of shell to clams left in shell. I believe leaving some of the shells enhance the flavors of the pasta and the look is beautiful too. A good reminder of what Mother Nature has given us.
A quick saute of onions and garlic, with that pinch of red chilis, will release the first stages of hunger into the kitchen. Add in the clams and some white wine to deglaze the pan of all that ocean goodness. A little of the chopped parsley for that peppery flair. In goes the spaghetti. I usually use tongs to grab the spaghetti. The reasoning behind this is I want some of that starchy water so the pasta does not get dry and pasty. This is so important. I always keep the remainder of the pasta water close by so if I need some I can ladle it in. Some quick tosses to ensure the distribution of the clams and sauce and you are ready to plate this godly creation. Some nice fresh parsley sprinkled on top with a drizzle of the OCPEVOO, you know, that olive oil thing.
Dinner is served! This evening we have Spaghetti with White Clam Sauce.
The flavors from the nuttiness and slight crunch of the spaghetti, to that white white sauce bathing sweetness from the onion, and acidic and fragrant from the garlic. The clams briny, earthy, tender, plump and rich, along with the shells accentuating this experience of this flavor. The chili flakes offering a nice kick, combined with the grassy richness of the olive oil and the peppery nature of the fresh parsley. Mouthful after mouthful has you licking your lips and grabbing a piece of rustic bread to clean the remains of sauce off your plate. Even after the meal you are left with this lingering absolutely wonderful flavor on your lips and in your mouth, one that leaves you craving the jewels of the sea or ocean even more.
Song of the day: "Natural Science" by Rush (a truly acquired taste Canadian group which I love especially the percussions, absolutely amazing!)Print
- 400 grams Spaghetti
- 900 grams fresh clams
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tbsp of white wine
- ¼ white onion chopped fine
- 2 cloves garlic whole
- Pinch of dried chili flakes
- 2 tbsp of fresh parsley chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Take clams and scrub the shells well removing any debris and barnicles off.
- Place clams in a bowl of salted water and let soak for about an hour.
- Rinse clams and place in a pot on medium heat with just a splash of water and steam clams for about 10 minutes or until clam shells open.
- If some of the shells don't open discard them.
- Remove some of the clams from shell and place in a bowl leaving about 40 percent in the shell.
- Place spaghetti in a large pot of boiling salted water.
- Taste the water to make sure it is seasoned well.
- Cook the spaghetti for the just a few minutes shy of the recommended time on the package.
- While pasta is cooking drizzle 2 table spoon of olive oil in a medium to high heated pan.
- Toss in the garlic and onion and saute till onions become translucent.
- Sprinkle in the chili flakes and ½ the chopped parsley.
- Toss in the clams shelled and de-shelled.
- Stir well and season with salt and pepper.
- Pour in the red wine and cook till wine started to dissipate.
- Take spaghetti out of boiling water with some tongs letting some of the pasta water fall into the saute pan with the sauce.
- Toss vigorously aand sprinkle the rest of the parsley on top.
- Finish with a nice drizzle of olive oil.
- Ready to serve.
- If pasta seems dry add some more of the pasta water to it.
- Serving Size: 4 servings
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