Spaghetti alle Vongole (spaghetti with clams), is a sublimely simple pasta made with clams, garlic, olive oil, peppers and a bit of parsley. Yep, that’s it! No cream, no tomato sauce, and most certainly no cheese. Some like to add tomatoes, but personally I love the simplicity of the briny clams interacting with the fresh green notes of the olive oil and parsley.
I’ve also seen people use a blend of butter and olive oil to make their Spaghetti alle Vongole because it forms an emulsion, making the sauce adhere to the pasta better. While this reasoning may be technically sound, the rich butter tends to coat your tongue and makes this fresh dish taste heavier than it needs to be.
With Valentine’s day falling on a Friday this year, chances are you don’t have all day to make an elaborate dinner. This pasta is simple enough for a beginner to tackle but delicious enough to impress even the most jaded foodie. Best of all, if you clean up as you go, and share a plate with your sweetheart, you’ll be left with a pan, a plate and two forks to wash, leaving the rest of the evening open for other things… like dessert!
While simple and quick to prepare the one thing that may literally muck you up is the dirt and sand that clams tend to contain. To ensure you’re biting into briny clams and not gritty mud, you need to allow ample time for you clams to expel any silt they’ve sucked in. Just buy your clams a day or two ahead of time and soak them in salt water until you’re ready to use them.
Normally with pasta I encourage you to generously salt the water before boiling the pasta, but Spaghetti alle Vongole is one exception. That’s because the clams can be very salty and if you salt the pasta water you’ll end up with over-salted pasta.
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