Pasta con le vongole (pasta with clams) is an Italian super-classic, very popular everywhere from the North to the South of the peninsula. It’s a win-win first course: it takes only a few minutes to make it and it is ‘da leccarsi i baffi’ (which is an Italian phrase which simply means ‘delicious’). I was raised in the coastal town of Pescara, so, for me, pasta con le vongole meant vongole from the Adriatic Sea. I had never considered using different clams to make this typical dish… until a few days ago! Last week our friend Pierpaolo brought us a pack of fresh British clams, they looked beautiful and I thought: why not? These clams are bigger than the Adriatic clams and I used them for our traditional Sunday lunch pasta, a unanimous success!
- rock salt to clean the clams
- 800 g of fresh clams
- 500 g of Linguine (or spaghetti) pasta
- 2 garlic cloves
- fresh parsley
- 5 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper
- chilli flakes (optional)
First of all, we need to clean the clams: using a colander and a large bowl, soak the clams in salty water for a couple of hours. Use 1 tbsp of rock salt for each litre of water. The clams will push sand out of their shells, cleaning themselves. Once cleaned, wash the clams under cold running water, discarding any broken ones.
Pour the oil into a large saucepan and gently fry the garlic cloves for 1 minute, until they begin to sizzle. Carefully add the clams, cover with a lid and cook for few minutes until they have opened. Add salt and pepper according to taste, and some chilli flakes if you like it hot.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta in 5 litres of boiling water, adding 2 tbsp of rock salt, until ‘al dente’. To get the ‘al dente’ perfect bite, cook the pasta for 1 minute less than instructed on the packet. Once the pasta is cooked, drain, saving some cooking water. Add the linguine to the clams and very gently stir together over high heat for 1 minute. Add some cooking water if the pasta looks too dry. Add two tbsp of fresh chopped parsley and serve immediately.
There are many white wines that can be paired with a fish dish, both still and sparkling, but, for me, Falanghina is a perfect match for pasta with clams. This ancient Campanian wine is produced on the slopes of Taburno, a mountain in the Campania region, and in some areas of the Phlegraean Fields, a large volcano field situated to the west of Naples and a regional park. Falanghina brings you the true taste of the sea, due to its high minerality. I recommend the Falanghina from Cantina dei Feudi di Sangregorio, straw yellow with citrus aromas and fresh summer fruits but not very intense, acid and dry.