CLASSIC pasta spaghetti with clams (con vongole)
         

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Classic pastas are such wonderful comfort foods; most of us have our favorites when comfort is of the essence. One of our favorites is the simple spaghetti con vongole, spaghetti with clams in their shells. I first had this version on my initial trip to Venice in the late sixties, at Trattoria alla Madonna, near the Rialto in Venice. Now our tradition on any visit to Venice is to have our first lunch at Trattoria alla Madonna: spaghetti con vongole.

for the sauce:

  • 50-60 small clams, Manila preferred
  • eight tablespoons olive oil
  • two tablespoons chopped flat leaf Italian parsley
  • two tablespoons (or a touch more) chopped garlic (peeled and chopped fine)
  • a couple of pinches of red pepper flakes (1/2 tsp or so)
  • salt
  • one-half cup dry white wine
  • two tablespoons butter

for the pasta:

  • one pound of spaghetti, spaghettini, or linguine

Wash the clams: let them sprits in cold water for 5-10 minutes. Throw away any clams that are open at this stage (just get rid of them,). Rinse the remainder in another bath of cold water, doing a little hand scrubbing if necessary.

Use a pan or skillet that is large enough to hold the sauce and the spaghetti when finished. Put in the olive oil and garlic. Medium heat. When the garlic starts to sizzle, add the parsley and the red pepper flakes.

Add the clams (carefully). Add salt. Add the wine. Stir gently. Smell. When you no longer smell alcohol odor emanating from the pan (10-15 seconds), cover. The clams will steam open.

After a few minutes, start the clam checking process. Look under the cover and see how the clams are doing; hopefully opening. Stir very gently. When all the clams have opened, remove the pan from the heat. (be reasonable: sometimes there will be clams that do not open, ever. Don't wait too long. Just stop and throw those clams away).

Bring 4-5 quarts of water of a raging boil. Add a couple teaspoons salt. Put in the pasta, stirring well to get it mixed around in the water. Cook the pasta just short of al  dente. One can say a minute before al dente, but you have to get your own feel for this; drain well.

Put your pan back on medium heat; add the pasta; stir gently! Cook until the fluid reduces, but not entirely. (the remaining broth is a special treat). Stir in the butter (no cheese).

Serve immediately, with some crusty bread to dip in the broth.

In addition to this classic presentation, there are two variations: one with a red sauce, and one with minced, not whole clams.


 

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