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Author Notes: This recipe violates at least two rules of Italian cooking: No cheese with seafood. That both pesto and clams with pasta must be really garlicky. I learned this basic pesto recipe from an Italian friend who was adamant: no more than half a clove (then again, his grandmother's other secret was a tablespoon of fatty yoghurt, which I haven't included). As for the clams in pesto, I had it first at a wonderful restaurant near the Vatican. Some Italian friends served it with shrimp. Love it with sweet rock shrimp or scallops. Don't know the technical reasons for why it works. Just does, if you want something more than beans and potatoes in your pesto. I agree with my friend on less garlic because there are so many other flavors here. But if you like garlic, there are worse sins. —fisheri
clove of garlic
palmfuls of pinenuts
At least 4
tablespoons good olive oil, and likely more
- Add basil and garlic to food processor. Whiz
- Add cheese, pine nuts, oil and salt. Whiz and add olive oil to a creamy consistency. Fussy people say it should sit for at least an hour for the basil to break down.
The clams and pasta
dozen clams, littleneck or cherrystone
packet spaghetti or linguine
- Scrub clams and put them in a big covered pot on high flame. Watch carefully, removing them into a bowl as they open. You don't want overdone, rubbery clams. Discard any that don't open. Meantime, boil the water and cook the pasta al dente. Save a little pasta water just in case the pesto is too thick.
- Let the clams cool slightly and pluck the meat out into another bowl. I know many cooks think you need to serve clams with the shells. But for me the idea of big American clamshells covered with melted cheese is gross. At this point you will have three bowls with clam juice: the pot, the first bowl and the second with the meat. Combine all into one and let the grit settle.
- Fill a large serving bowl with hot water. This is for mixing the clams, pesto and pasta. If you do it in a hot pot, cheese will stick, diluting the taste.
- Chop the clams, not too finely, and add them to the pesto. Carefully pour off the clam juice and add it to the pesto too, leaving all grit behind.
- Drain the hot water from the serving bowl. Add pasta, then stir in the pesto/clam mix. Add pasta water if needed, though probably not. Serve with a drizzle of oil if desired.