On the way home from the beach the other day, we stopped at the fish shop. They had clams (Vongole) and I thought I'd love to try cooking them. I'd never cooked with them before, but spaghetti vongole is one of my favourite dishes, and i figured “how hard can it be”? The answer is “bloody easyl” by the way :D they also had langoustine (like baby lobsters), so we bought 2 per person, however as tasty as they were, I don't think they were needed. Next time I will either make a “frutto di mare” or just use some clams alone.
I made this for 2 people, but the ingredients can easily be doubled etc. Use about 250g of clams (in shells) per person. It is important to make sure that the clams are alive and well when purchasing them. They should be tightly closed, and if they are slightly open, should close when you tap them. This is vital.
The sauce takes only slightly longer to make than the pasta will need to cook, so this is fantastic for a quick dinner on the way home from the beach/work.
- 500g clams*** and 4 langoustine
- 8 or so cloves of garlic, chopped
- extra virgin olive oil
- a massive handful of fresh herbs – i used basil (torn directly into sauce), but fresh chopped parsley or a mixture of both will do just as well.
- dry white wine (you'll need a good glug, maybe 100mls?)
- A lemon (halved, for juice)
- 80-125g dry spaghetti/linguini per person, I used about 180g in total for 2.
- Salt, pepper chilli flakes (optional) about 20g butter (optional)
Put a large pot of water on the boil (for cooking pasta). Salt it well (i use about a tablespoon of sea-salt) and keep it simmering whilst you prepare the sauce, ready to turn it up and throw the pasta in at the right time.
Wash the clams under some running cool water, taking special care to discard any of them that refuse to close tightly eventually on tapping . Wash the langoustine (these are precooked). Put in a colander (with a plate under it) and store in fridge until ready to throw in the sauce.
Sauté garlic in a large heavy based fry-pan in some olive oil on a low-medium heat, adding chilli flakes if using. If using basil, tear in some of the leaves into the oil mixture also. Add plenty of freshly ground pepper. As soon as the garlic softens (take care to never over-cook garlic, as it will become bitter and spoil the taste), add some wine and juice of half-3/4 of the lemon and turn up the heat.
Wait until wine starts bubbling then add the clams and langoustine. Stir the sauce around the shells and cover.
Throw pasta into water at this point.
2-3 minutes later, uncover frypan and stir the clams around. Take the open ones out, placing them on a warm plate. You don't want them to overcook. Keep stirring and taking the cooked ones out. If any of them don't open within 5 minutes, throw them away. Take the langoustine out and if there's plenty of liquid, turn it right up to reduce a little if necessary.
Turn heat back down and add knob of butter (optional). Salt and pepper the sauce to taste.
Cook the pasta a couple of minutes less than the instructions. Drain (reserving half a cup of liquid) and add to the frypan along with some more freshly torn basil to absorb some of the sauce. Toss the spaghetti in the sauce and add the seafood and toss further. Make sure the pasta is "aldente", if it needs a little more, add some of the reserved pasta liquid if necessary and toss for a further 30 seconds or so.
When serving, ensure that approximately equal amounts of pasta go into the plates first, then spoon clams on top and add the langoustine on top of that.
Serve with an extra squeeze of lemon, a drizzle of some good extra virgin olive oil (optional), an extra plate (for shells) and a bowl filled with warm water and a quarter of lemon (as a finger bowl) and plenty of serviettes.
***You can make this just as easily with mussels. Clams are less hassle though as you don't need to de-beard and scrub them :D