This dish is from Campania in southern Italy. The success of the dish is entirely dependent on the quality of the clams you procure and how well you wash them. Some people prefer to add tomato sauce or fresh tomato to this dish but I think it detracts from the briny flavour of the clams so I omit them. —woo wei-duan
extra-virgin olive oil, good quality
cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced (or finely chopped if you love garlic)
chilli, finely chopped or ½ dried chillie crumbled, or ¼ teaspoon chilli flakes
spaghetti or linguine
dry white wine (something that tastes nice but is not too expensive)
Italian flat-leaf parsley, washed, dried, stems removed and discarded, leaves finely chopped
black pepper, freshly ground
In This Recipe
When you buy the clams, if you are not going to use them immediately, keep them in the refrigerator wrapped in a damp cloth. Do NOT cover them with plastic or put them into a plastic bag or they will suffocate. Discard any shells which are open or cracked.
They day you are going to cook the clams, scrub the shells under cold running water. Then mix together 100 grams of non-iodized salt per 1 litre of cold water and cover the clams with this salted water for a minimum of 20 minutes and up to 4 to 5 hours in the refrigerator so that they filter out any sand or grit.
Any shells which float to the surface should be discarded. Pull the clams out from the water and place in another bowl and add clean water. Scrub the shells of the clams to remove any grit and discard any clams that are still open or have a broken shell. Change the water continually until the water is clean and free of grit. Do not place the clams into a colander and run water over them as they will not filter the water and the grit will remain trapped inside the shell. Keep the clams on the side, drained of water, covered with the damp cloth.
Bring to a boil 7 litres of water in a pentola or large pot and add 3 large spoons of salt. Do not add oil to the water.
In a sauté pan over medium high heat, heat 30 mls of olive oil and add ⅓ of the garlic, the chilli, and 2 pinches of salt to the pan.
The garlic will begin to colour (2-3 minutes).
When the garlic is golden, reduce the heat to low and add the clams.
Cover the pan with a lid, shaking from time to time until all the clams open, about 10 minutes.
Discard any clams which have not opened. Place a strainer over a bowl and pour the clams into the strainer.
Reserving the liquid, filter through a fine mesh strainer and set aside.
Add the pasta to the boiling water and let cook for the amount of time indicated on the package minus 2 minutes.
In another sauté pan over medium heat, warm the remaining 150 mls of olive oil and add the remaining ⅔ garlic until it begins to colour.
Turn off the heat and then add the white wine and the filtered clam juice at the same time, being careful to stand back as the liquid will sizzle and spit.
Once the mixture has stopped spitting, turn the heat back onto medium and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes to cook out all the alcohol from the wine. Add the parsley and freshly ground black pepper to taste, cook 1 more minute and then remove from the flame.
When the pasta is done cooking, drain the pasta (do not rinse) and add to the wine and olive oil mixture, stirring to mix. Turn the heat to low and stir the pasta to cook some of the sauce into the pasta and finish cooking the pasta. Add the clams and toss together. Serve with a final sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper over top.