It has taken a few days, but I think I am back to normal both physically and mentally after the extraordinary consumption antics at the wedding double bill last weekend. My dinosaur appetite has certainly come roaring back this morning after a previously unheard of few days of post wedding moderation. The box of good intention meusli was ignored this morning and I began the day in my favorite bar with another double, this time of the cornetto and cappucino type (cornetto as in italian for croissant not the nasty freezer compartment variety) yes double, two of each.
Back from teaching my little ones- well, I say teaching, if you can call doing frog impressions or frantically gesturing to the classic song The wheels on the bus teaching- and I am ravenous. Despite my double this morning, my body is demanding I make up for lost time and Vincenzo is showing signs of cronic pasta deprivation. So, I have bought a big bag of beautiful mottled pebble like vongole veraci (verace clams) which are soaking in the sink at this very moment waiting to be steamed open, then tossed with with oil, garlic, parsely, a touch of pepperoncino and garofolo spaghetti – lots of it.
I have a weakness for spaghetti alle vongole and up until now, an unfailing habit of getting over excited at the mere thought of it. It has been years now, since it first became my new favorite thing. Other favorites have arrived, been overindulged in, then quietly forgotten, while it has remained top of my pops with fluorescent lighting ever since. I just don’t seem to tire of it. Even bad platefuls have failed to put me off, they are just left barely touched and I am rendered even more determined to find a delicious plateful asap. When it is good, which means the clams are good and stompingly fresh, it is one of the most delicious plates of food I care to imagine, the intense, flavoursome sea salty liquor the clams release and the meaty little morsels of flesh send my tastebuds somewhere quite special.
If you will excuse me, I will pause here while I go to prepare the aforemensioned plateful, give the Sicilian his pasta, take a photo and return to tell you all about it.
1 hour later.
Voilà, lunch, well its all gone now and I even washed up.
It goes without saying you need to get yours hands on some mighty fine, spankingly fresh clams, in general the slightly larger varace variety are tastier in my opinion, I am sure you know your clams – get the best. Other than the clams you need some great spaghetti or linguine, good olive oil, a nice plump clove of garlic, a spig of vibrantly fresh parsley, some chopped pepperoncino and a good slug of white wine or vermouth.
The recipe is pretty simple really, careful draining of the cooked clams through a very fine sieve or muslin is vital if you want to avoid sand in every mouthful, but thats the only fiddly bit, the rest is easy peasy
Spaghetti alle vongole or spaghetti with clams
500g small clams in their shells, a small glass of white wine or vermouth, 3 tbsp olive oil, 1 plump clove of garlic peeled and very finely sliced, 1 small pepperoncino or chilli very finely chopped,, a small handful of finely chopped parsley. 250g spaghetti or linguine.
Scrub and clean the clams, discarding any that are chipped or open, then soak them in plenty of fresh cold water for an hour or so to wash away some of the sandy grit.
Put a large pan of well salted water on for the pasta.
Drain the clams and rinse under running water. Put a large wide pan which will accommodate the clams comfortably and spaciously over a moderate flame. Tip in the clams and pour over the wine or vermouth. Cover the pan tightly and shake it very gently for a couple of minutes. After two minutes check on the clams progress, they should be starting to open, if most are open, then turn off the heat, otherwise recover the pan and leave for another minute.
Once the clams are open, turn off the flame and using a slotted spoon remove the clams from the liquor and then carefully filter the liquor through a fine sieve (lined with a piece of muslin if you want a super filter). Set the precious liquor aside.
Saving about 15 of the prettiest clams in their shells and set them aside too. Pick the rest of the clam meat out of the shells.
Put your pasta in the now fiercely boiling water, check cooking times, you want it to be perfectly tender but just a little nutty and al dente to the bite.
Wipe the pan you used to steam the clams and set it over a gentle flame, pour in the oil and add the garlic and pepperoncino which you want to soften and infuse the oil with their flavors, not brown. Add the clam cooking liquor to the pan, raise the heat slightly and let it bubble away for a couple of minutes.
Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and add it to the bubbling liquor and turn off heat, add the clam meat morsels, the clams still in their shells and the parsley and toss everything together.
Serve immediatly with a dribble of raw oil, some black pepper if you like and plenty of crusty bread to mop up the juices.