Many years ago when I was in Italy on vacation, I had Linguine con Vongole and fell in love with its simplicity. I rarely resist it now if I see in on a menu and have made many versions of it at home. I honestly don't think I'm breaking any new ground here, but it's my #1 favorite dish to have when I'm home alone. So satisfying. This is my latest version of the dish. I typically remove the clams from the shell so that I don't have to take the time to do this as I'm eating, but you can leave them in the shells if you prefer. The ingredient amounts are my interpretation of a pinch of this and a pinch of that when I'm making it, but the rule of thumb I use when making this is equal amounts of salt, pepper and sugar, and a little less of red pepper flakes and oregano. So I invite you to taste it at the end and adjust as needed. —TheWimpyVegetarian
Test Kitchen Notes
WHO: ChezSuzanne is an avid home cook -- and a cooking teacher, to boot.
WHAT: What just may be the perfect bowl of pasta for one.
HOW: You make a light, flavorful sauce with sausage, garlic, roasted jalapeno, tomato, aromatics, and clam broth, then toss it with your cooked pasta and clams.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Each bite brings something chewy, salty, meaty, acidic, and rich; this is far from a simple, one-note bowl of pasta. ChezSuzanne says she could eat it every night, and we'd have to agree. —The Editors
dozen fresh clams (I used Littleneck)
handful of pasta noodles, enough for 1 serving (linguine or spaghetti noodles works well here)
of a large sausage link that has fennel and garlic in it (Each sausage link is around 1/3 pound at Whole Foods)
Clean the clams of all grit and heat 2"of water to salted boiling in a wide pan. Put the clams in the hot water and cover. It should take about 5 minutes for them all to open. Immediately remove the clams from the pan, remove the clams from the shells, coarsely chop and set aside. Reserve shells for dish decoration. Reserve the clam broth in the pan.
Heat a large pot of salted water to boiling. Cook the pasta according to the directions on its box.
Cook the sausage over medium - high heat and crumble. Set aside. If you plan to add the jalapeno pepper, place the whole jalapeno in a dry pan and roast over medium-high heat. Once the skin is mostly blackened, remove, pop into a small bag for 5 minutes. Peel, seed and dice. I tend to add various roasted peppers to a lot of things to bring a little heat to a dish and some smoky earthiness. But this dish works well without the jalapeno too.
Lightly salt the garlic and saute it in the rendered fat from the sausage. Add a little olive oil if needed. Once the garlic is just turning golden, add the diced roasted jalapeno pepper (if you're using it), diced tomatoes and a ladle-full of clam broth from the pot you cooked the clams in. I put in enough clam broth to create a very soupy sauce. Add the salt, sugar, red pepper flakes, oregano and half of the seasoned pepper, and cook until the clam broth has reduced by one third. Add the cooked sausage and clams. Toss around to rewarm, but not long enough to start cooking the clams again. Nothing is worse in this dish than rubbery overcooked clams. At the end I do a couple squeezes of lemon slices to balance the acid.
When the pasta is cooked, I toss it lightly in olive oil, sprinkle some parmasan cheese and a little seasoned pepper on top of it and toss it again, but this step is optional. Then I pour the clams / sausage / tomato sauce over it. You can arrange the reserved shells on the dish for presentation. As a last touch, I sprinkle the chopped flat-leaf parsley on top before sitting down to eat.
Serve with some crusty bread and a salad. You know, I might need to make this again tonight. I'm getting hungry for it again!