After a wonderful day at Italian Days on Commercial Drive, here in Vancouver. Mark and I decided we hadn’t had enough pasta, nor Italian cuisine. We trotted over to our fish monger at the Daily Catch, and picked up a pound of clams. What came next was a treat in cooking. I made, quite possibly, my favourite thing I ever have. The ULTIMATE Linguine Vongole. And I think you should know what I did to achieve that.
The Ultimate Linguine Vongole
- 1 lb. littleneck clams, scrubbed & purged*
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 cup flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, finely chopped
- 3/4 cup dry white wine
- 3/4 package linguine
- 1 1/2 cup starchy pasta water
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- Coarse salt & freshly cracked black pepper
Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Salt generously, and toss in your pasta. You’re only going to cook it about half way, and then finish it in the sauce.
Meanwhile, grab a large Dutch oven style pot, and heat olive oil on medium heat. When the oil is hot, sweat the shallot and garlic until fragrant and translucent. Toss in the red pepper flakes, and then the clams. Deglaze with the white wine, and cover the pan. The clams will cook at varying times – approximately 3 – 7 minutes. Start opening the lid to check on the clams at the 3 minute mark. Remove any that have opened, place into a bowl, and then return the lid to let the rest of the cook. If any decide not to open, discard them as they likely were dead before you starting cooking them. At this point, your pasta will likely be half cooked.
Begin to transfer 1 1/2 cups of pasta water into the Dutch oven. Then transfer the pasta, as well, with a pair of tongs. Complete the pasta cooking process in the starchy, garlicky, clammy broth – which will begin to coat the pasta and become thicker itself. When your pasta is al dente – turn off the heat – add in the parsley, lemon juice, and clams back to the pot. Toss gently with tongs, taste, and season with salt and pepper.
*To purge clams: fill up a bowl of cold water. Add some flour to the water. Place clams in flour water. Let sit for at least 20 minutes. The clams will start eating the flour, and release some of their sand. No more sandy clams!
Basically, there are a few rules of thumb for Vongole… you can’t have enough garlic, and you can’t have enough parsley. If you cover those bases, you’re likely in the clear for a delicious meal.