This is an Italian classic and like many classic recipes, it relies on a simple combination that allows each of the ingredients to shine. Here, the vongole is combined with the holy trinity of olive oil, parsley and garlic.
Vongole is the Italian word for clam but there are various species of similar shelled molluscs that include cockles, periwinkles and pipis.
Clams feature in dishes throughout the world, famously in America where they come in a the form of clam chowder or clam bakes (yes, there really is such a thing, it is not just the title of an Elvis movie) and by the Chinese who served them with XO sauce. In Spain, they are mad for tinned razor clams, which are an elongated variety and you will find fresh clams (Almejas) peeking out of Paella, or served any number of ways including stewed with chorizo and tomato.
Locally, Pipis have been eaten throughout the millenia by the indigenous Australians as evidenced by the remains found in shell middens (which are places where shell debris was collected over time). Bennalong Point, the site of the Sydney Opera House, was in fact originally used as a shell midden.
One of the fun things to do at the beach is to find your own clams, by digging and twisting your feet into the sand at the shoreline when the water rushes back out to sea – or do what I did … and buy them already cleaned of sandy grit and vacuumed packed from the supermarket!!!
Make sure you use dried pasta, not fresh as fresh is too delicate for this recipe. It goes without saying if you are following a gluten-free diet to use gluten-free pasta, I used San Remo. Like with mussels, discard any vongole that doesn’t open.
Please note: that this recipe is NOT paleo, low carb or low fat!
250g dried (not fresh) spaghetti or linguine
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½-1 long red chilli, finely chopped (remove seeds if you can’t handle the heat)
¼ cup finely chopped parsley
1kg Vongole, vacuumed packed
2 tblspn extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup dry white wine, like Pinot Grigio
1/3 cup vongole juice, reserved from the vacuum pack
1/3 cup reserved pasta cooking water
a knob of butter (20g) or another slosh of olive oil
chopped parsley to serve
1. Firstly, put the water on for the pasta in a large pot. Meanwhile, as the water is heating, prep all the ingredients – including opening the seal of the vongole pack and draining out the juice. Keep the vongole inside the pack until ready to put then in the pan.
2. Once the water is boiling, season the water well with table salt and once it returns to the boil, place the pasta in.
3. Once the pasta is in, heat olive oil into a large wide frypan with high sides or a casserole style saucepan. Add the garlic, chilli and parsley and stir until aromatic – about 30 secs and then add the wine. Let it all bubble away for one minute to burn off the alcohol in the wine, then add the reserved vongole juice and cook for another minute.
4. Tip the vongole into the pan. Swirl the pan gently so as distribute the garlic sauce over and around the vongole. As they open, lightly sprinkle over some sea salt flakes and break up the knob of butter and scatter throughout the pan. Cover with lid and cook for a few minutes. Alternatively, you could use olive oil instead of butter, but I prefer the addition of butter.
5. Once pasta is just cooked to al-dente, strain, reserving 1/3 cup of the pasta water to add to the vongole. Tip the drained pasta over the vongole, add reserved pasta water and shake the pan (or stir) so that everything meshes together and the sauce emulsifies. Cook for another minute with lid on. Check for seasoning and add more salt if needed.
6. Serve immediately and sprinkle with a little extra parsley.
Please note, I’ve been very generous with the sauce and the quantity of vongole, so if you would like to make this to serve 4, you can increase the pasta to 350g-500g, but keep the rest of the ingredients the same. You may need to add a little extra pasta cooking liquid or olive oil if it seems too dry.