This week the boyfriend and I will finally embark upon our trip to Italy . To get into the spirit of things, I decided to make one of my favorite pasta dishes: linguine alla vongole, also known as linguine with clams. This dish is said to have originated in the Campania region of Italy and is a staple in Neopolitan cuisine. It’s also quite popular in Rome and every so often you’ll find a great rendition of it up north in Venice where there is abundant fresh seafood.
This recipe is very easy to make as a weeknight dinner. Instead of using canned clams however, spring for live fresh clams (Manila or Little Neck are what I like to use). If you must supplement more protein, ask your fishmonger if they have high-quality canned or bottled clam meat. Since the sauce for this pasta relies heavily on the seafood’s natural flavors, I like to add an extra bottle of good-quality clam juice to bring out more of that good briny essence. I also chose to use dry vermouth rather than a bottle of white wine because I always have vermouth handy and the herbal notes are a good compliment.
1 1/2 pounds fresh Manila Clams
1/4 teaspoon red chili pepper flake
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 tablespoons of olive oil (I used Lisbon Lemon olive oil from Stonehouse)
1 large shallot, minced
1/2 cup of dry Vermouth or dry white wine
4 ounces bottled or canned clam juice
10 ounces dry linguine pasta
2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
zest of half a lemon
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Bring 3 quarts water to a boil in a 5-qt. pot. Season lightly with salt; add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until about 2 minutes before tender. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta cooking water.
Meanwhile, heat 3 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and shallots, cook until just fragrant (about a minute). Add red pepper flakes and continue cooking 15 more seconds. Add vermouth, then clams; increase heat to high.Cover skillet and cook until clams open and release their juices, 3-6 minutes, depending on size of clams. As clams open, use tongs to transfer them to a bowl. Discard any clams that do not open on their own.
Add 3 Tbsp. of the reserved pasta water to skillet and 4 ounces of clam juice; bring to a boil. Add pasta to pan. Cook over high heat, tossing constantly, until pasta is al dente and has soaked up some of the sauce from the pan. Add clams and any juices from bowl to pan, along with parsley, and toss to combine. (Add more pasta water if sauce seems dry.) Transfer pasta to warm bowls and drizzle with remaining oil. Top with some freshly grated lemon zest and serve immediately.