Whenever I’m lucky enough to visit Italy, I make a point of ordering pasta with clams at least once while I’m there. Using varieties of clams I’ve never seen stateside, my pasta is served chock full of tiny, incredibly sweet mollusks no bigger than my thumbnail. What a treat! Back here at home, when I’m in an adventurous mood, I’ll make a run to the Asian markets to try some of the varieties of clams that they have on hand. More often than not, however, I’ll just head to one of the better groceries and pick up some littleneck or manila clams. When I do, I know that night’s dinner will be something special.
With no tomato sauce to simmer, this is an amazingly simple recipe that results in a very flavorful dish. Just toss a few ingredients into a frying pan while your pasta cooks and, in about 10 minutes, you’ll be sitting down to dinner. It really is as simple to make as it is delicious to eat.
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Pasta with Clams (“White Sauce”) Recipe
total time: approx. 90 minutes (75 minutes for prep, 15 minutes cooking)
- at least 2 doz. little neck or manila clams
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 to 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 3 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
- 1/4 cup white wine or water
- salt & pepper, to taste
- 1 lb pasta
- chopped parsley for garnish
- At least an hour before dinner, use a brush to individually scrub each clam before rinsing and placing it in a large bowl of cold freshwater. Rinse them a second time just before proceeding with the recipe.
- Bring a 6 quart pot of salted water to boil.
- Add oil to a large frying pan with a lid. Add the garlic, parsley and the wine or water.
- Add the pasta to the pot of salted boiling water. The pasta, if dried, should take 9 or 10 minutes to cook. If fresh, less time will be needed. Time it so that its completion coincides with that of the clams.
- Just when the frying pan’s liquid begins to show signs of boiling, add the clams and cover tightly,
- In about 5 to 8 minutes, the clams should be open & steamed. Discard any unopened clams. Replace cover and remove from heat.
- Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water, drain the pasta, and combine the clams & pan juices with the drained pasta. If too dry, add some of the reserved pasta water.
- Serve immediately, garnished with chopped parsley.
This dish is totally reliant upon timing. If you’re off, the pasta will not be piping hot or, worse yet, the clams will be over-cooked and chewy. Just heed the pasta package’s instructions and keep in mind that the clams will open about 5 minutes after they hit the hot pan. Very often, if my clams are ready and my pasta still needs another minute or two, I’ll use the time to remove some of the clam meat from the shells. I won’t remove all of the meat from the shells because I prefer to see a few shells in each serving. It’s all about the presentation.
When in Italy, one is far more likely to see this dish than you would pasta with clams in a tomato (“red”) sauce. The latter dish, however, is more popular here in the States. Truth be told, I usually prepare today’s recipe and only “go red” about 25% of the time. The choice is yours to make and here’s my recipe for Pasta with Clams – (Red Sauce) for those who prefer their clams in a tomato sauce.
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