For a long time I was intimidated when I even thought about cooking clams and mussels, but I’ve really gotten excited about experimenting with seafood. I’ve found that so long as you clean them well and don’t overcook them, they are pretty easy. They both have a mild and sweet taste and pair really well with Italian ingredients. This dish works because of the concentrated flavor of the dry sherry married with the delicate flavor of the seafood. I used pasta for this dish because it is a classic pairing. —Bethany Cornish Smith
casarecce pasta (or any other shape you’d like)
In a large pot, bring 7 quarts of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 10 to 11 minutes.
While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, in a large Dutch oven. Add the onion and season with salt and pepper, and then cook until soft, about 5 to 7 minutes. Next add the garlic and crushed red pepper flakes and cook for another minute or so. Once the flavors have combined, add the tomato paste. Allow the tomato paste to caramelize, which should take about 2 minutes.
Next, add the wine, chicken stock and grape tomatoes, then bring the pan to a simmer for a minute, scraping the brown bits that cling to the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Add the clams and mussels to the pan. Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and cook until all the shellfish have opened, about 5 to 8 minutes. Make sure to discard any unopened mussels or clams.
Using tongs, remove the shellfish from the pan and set them aside. Drain the pasta and transfer to a large serving bowl. Pour the shellfish cooking liquid over the pasta. Add ¼ cup of the parsley and toss. Place the reserved mussels and clams on top of the pasta and garnish with the remaining parsley, chives and cheese.