Linguine alle Vongole
Linguine with white clam sauce at home is not only possible, but delectable!
Don't be intimidated to work with shellfish at home. Clams and mussels are truly not that complicated to work with once you know what to do. So, as long as you follow the steps, and take the time to mise en place your ingredients and equipment, you will be successful. Never skip the crucial step of soaking your bivalves in water. After all, clams are the filters of the sea, so when they soak in water they flush out the sand they are holding inside when you bring them home. Once you've soaked and rinsed the clams, you can have this dish ready in under thirty minutes. It really is just a matter of technique, not torture. This dish is highly procedural, so follow along and you shall succeed!
Essential equipment: cutting board; chef's knife or paring knife; microplane; large saucepan or stockpot; tongs; colander or strainer; wet measuring cup; measuring spoons; large sauté pan with tight-fitting lid (and high sides, if possible); wooden spoon
2-3 pounds fresh littleneck clams (approximately 24-36 clams)
1 pound linguine 1 tablespoon salt
(1 cup pasta water, reserved) ¼ cup olive oil
2 large shallots, minced 6 garlic cloves, grated or minced
1 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted 2 tablespoons chopped parsley leaves, divided
zest and juice of 1 lemon salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
1. In a large mixing bowl, cover the clams with cold tap water. Set aside for 20 minutes up to one hour.
2. Meanwhile, chop the shallots, grate or mince the garlic, zest and juice the lemon, and chop the parsley. Set aside.
"Grating the garlic on the microplane makes for an evenly flavorful sauce without chunks of garlic in any single bite."
3. Right before you drain the clams, place a large pot of water plus the tablespoon of kosher salt over high heat to bring to a boil.
4. While the pasta water boils, drain the clams and scrub each one under running water. Cover them in cold water again to confirm that you have cleaned them well. The water should be clear. Drain them one final time and set aside.
5. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente. Save 1 cup of the cooking water and set aside before draining the pasta. Once al dente, strain the pasta in a colander and shake the excess water. Set aside. Do not rinse and do not toss with cold water.
ILOC tip: cooking the pasta to al dente is important so that it can continue to cook in the clam sauce as the dish comes together.
6. Heat a large sauté pan over high heat. Add the olive oil to the pan and swirl to coat. Add the shallots and garlic and sauté over medium heat for 1-2 minutes, until softened.
7. Return the heat to medium-high. Add the wine and red pepper to the pan. Place all the clams in the pan, in a single layer if possible, and bring the liquid to a simmer. Cover and cook for 6-8 minutes, or until the clams have opened their shells.
ILOC tip: never force open a clam. If it does not open, it was not alive when you brought it home and you do not want to eat it. If the shells are cracked, do not eat those clams either. Should your clam sizes vary significantly, and some open long before others, it is perfectly fine to remove the opened clams and allow the closed clams to continue cooking.
8. Once the clams are opened and cooked, remove them from the pan and set aside. Add the drained pasta and toss in the garlic-wine sauce. If needed, use some of the reserved pasta water to stretch the sauce.
9. Add the butter, zest, and half the lemon juice to the pasta, along with 1 tablespoon of the chopped parsley. Toss well to coat. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed with remaining lemon juice and/or salt and pepper.
10. Add the clams to the linguine and toss well to combine. Divide evenly amongst four shallow bowls. Sprinkle evenly with the remaining tablespoon of chopped parsley.
11. Serve immediately, with grated Parmesan if desired.
Makes 4 servings.