Linguine con Vongole
Region: Italy, Campania-Naples
Category: Pasta with Shellfish
Difficulty: Labor Intensive
This is one of the grandest plates of pasta you can have. It’s simple, yet it relies on a good cook who know their shellfish and it requires freshly shucked clams. When I was a kid, Italian-American restaurants would offer linguine con vongole in bianco, with no tomato sauce, or in rosso, with tomato sauce. I loved it “white” and this recipe is without tomato sauce. The most memorable time I ever ate this was one early evening when I was on summer vacation in Wellfleet on Cape Cod, where we rented the same house by the sea ever year. Our house was right on the mud flats where it was packed with oysters and clams. We had our shellfish license and I would usually send the kids out to dig. They would be gone for as long as it was low tide. This particular afternoon my three kids and the two kids of my friends Mark and Jenny were all out digging. They were gone a long time I thought, but finally I saw 9-year-old Seri in the distance on the shore dragging something back to the house. It was a huge bag filled with shellfish. He excitedly told me there were more. Eventually the kids brought back about 400 clams and oysters– a small fortune! As I began to wash them, Mark said he would be back soon to help me shuck them. But I started anyway and about 2 hours later I had them all opened. Man, there were a lot. That evening nine of us ate linguine con vongole and we were in heaven.
[photo: Clifford A. Wright]
Yield: Makes 4 servings
Preparation Time: 60 minutes
48 littleneck clams, washed well and shucked
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 pound linguine
1. Chop the clams into largish pieces and save all the liquid.
2. In a large flame-proof casserole, heat the olive oil with the garlic over medium-high heat and when it begins to sizzle, add all the clams and their liquid. Cook until bubbling vigorous, then add the chile and parsley. Turn the heat off, season with black pepper, and wait for the pasta to finish cooking.
3. For every pound of pasta, bring 6 quarts of water to a rolling boil over high heat, salt abundantly with up to 1/2 cup of salt, then add the pasta in handfuls. Cook over high heat, stirring occasionally so the pasta doesn’t stick together, until al dente. Drain without rinsing. Transfer the pasta to the casserole and toss well with the clam sauce. Serve immediately without cheese.