Spaghetti with Clams or Spaghetti alle Vongole as called in Italy, was among the first dishes I tried in Italy many years ago, and it has remained one of my favorites today. It is a dish that is at the same time refreshing, flavorful and satisfying.
Having recently returned from my summer trip to Europe where I was able to spend four weeks sampling food in Italy in the village of Guardia Sanframondi or Guardia (as it is known) is a small medieval village in the Campania region. Each year, Guardia is host to an amazing wine and food festival called Vinalia. During the festival I was able to sample many traditional Italian dishes from the Campania paired with delicious wines from the region.
On a day trip to Naples which is about an hours drive from Guardia, I had the most amazing Spaghetti with Clams. This reminded me of my love for this dish and inspired this post on Spaghetti with Clams. In Naples they serve Spaghetti with Clams with a very special Clam called Vongole Veraci, which can only be found in the mediterranean sea near Italy. They are smaller in size between 3 and 5 cm, and are bursting with flavor. In the United states, chefs often substitute Cockles for the Vongole as they are a smaller sweeter clam.
Step one: Cook the garlic in olive oil for about 3 min. Add the wine and cook until reduced by half, about 2 to 3 min. Add the red pepper flakes. Set aside.
Step 2: While the pasta is cooking add the clams to the garlic, wine, olive oil mixture, cover the skillet and cook on high heat, shaking the pan a couple of times.
Step 3: Once the clams open, add the butter and flour mixture to it. Shake the pot and give it a minute until the butter melts.
Step 4: Reserve some of the pasta water and then drain the spaghetti on a colander. Place the pasta on the top of the clam sauce and mix gently. If the pasta gets too dry add some of the reserved cooking water.
Step 5: Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately!
Some restaurants in Italy will also serve Spaghetti with Clams with fresh tomatoes or tomato sauce. I personally prefer the white sauce as I feel that the tomatoes tend to dominate the delicious flavor of the clam, olive oil and garlic. I could go on and on about the reasons I love this dish so much but I would rather let you try and be the judge.
- 3 pounds littleneck clams
- 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves, finally chopped
- ½ cup dry white wine
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes or 3 small Italian peperoncinos crushed
- 1 pound spaghetti or linguini
- 3 tablespoons of butter, cut into small pieces
- 2 teaspoons of white flour
- 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley leaves
- Place all the clams in a bowl and fill it with with cold salted water. Let the clams sit for 30 minutes to an hour. During this time, they will spit out the sand from inside their shells.
- Place your clams in a colander in the sink and run them under cold water. Rinse them to get rid of any debris on their outer shells. Set them aside.
- In a large saucepan or skillet heat the olive oil and sauté the garlic on a low fire for about 2 minutes. Add the wine and the salt and increase the heat so that the wine boils and reduce by half, about 2 to 3 min. Add the red pepper flakes. Remove from the heat.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook pasta according to the package instructions until just al dente.
- While the pasta cooks, add the clams to the garlic-wine-olive oil mix, cover the skillet and cook on high fire. Shake the pot a couple of times until the clams open, around 5 minutes.
- Remove from the heat. Mix the butter and flour together and add it to the clam sauce. Shake the pot until the butter melts.
- NOTE: Some Italians would opt to leave out the butter, however the chef who taught me this recipe believed, as do I, that the butter enhances the flavor.If you prefer to make the recipe without butter, just substitute the same amount of Extra Virgin olive oil.
- Reserve some of the cooking water and then drain the pasta in a colander.
- Using a kitchen tongs place the pasta on top of the clam sauce and mix gently. Add a splash of the reserved pasta cooking water if necessary, to loosen up the sauce. Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately!
- Buon appetito!