Clams and Linguine, so simple to make and so delicious!! This is on our menu at home weekly, for years I bought Mahogany clams at the local supermarket, they are not a bad clam as long as you don’t overcook them, Mahogany’s use to be a throwaway clam, or a clam the clammers would eat at home, they have a thinner shell, and of course a brown colour, which is where they get there name from. Most supermarkets have begun carrying almost true little necks, and I say almost true because they are farm raised. Farm raised seafood has helped keep more seafood sustainable, by being able to replace what we eat, and that is a good thing. The difference between Mahogany’s and farm raised little necks is quite noticeable, but from farm raised to bay clams, you would hardly notice the difference.
Being a chef most of my life, I made many clams and Linguine dinners, but for years we used a chopped clam, unfortunately canned…….I guess you could say we didn’t know any better (even though we did) while chopped clams work well with soups and chowders I could never serve them over pasta again ( there are really good fresh and frozen chopped clams available in some supermarkets, even whole frozen clam meat.)
During a trip to Italy I was fortunate enough to sample clams and linguine they way it was meant to be served. Baby clams (even a bit smaller than little necks) in a lovely garlicky broth……sigh….never again would I eat canned clams.
So with that being said, lets get on with making one of the easiest dinners you will ever make, that will leave people whispering your name with the likes of Giada and the barefoot Contessa.
Linguine with Clams
1 lb of good quality Linguine (De Cecco, Del Verde, or Barilla)
Little Neck Clams or small Mahogany Clams ( bag of 50, or at least 15 clams per person)
2 cloves of Garlic sliced
1 Tablespoons Fresh Parsley
1 Tablespoon Fresh Basil
Pinch of Crushed Red Pepper
Pinch of Black Pepper
Sprinkle of grated Romano Cheese
2-3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Now timing is everything with this dish. First of all start your pot of water for the pasta heating up, while the water is coming to a boil get out your clams and wash them off in cold water. This is the time for you to inspect your clams, an open clam is a dead clam, (if you tap it and it closes its just trying to fool you) so discard any open clams. If a clam gets broken by miss handling it will die and it will smell…..this does not mean all the clams are bad but it will impart an odor to the rest of the clams….this will occur in supermarket clams from time to time. One very important thing to remember about clams is that they come in a mesh bag for a reason, so they can breathe. If you place them in a plastic bag to get them home, remove them from the bag immediately when you get home and place them in a bowl uncovered in the refrigerator. Cold will open clams, but they will close if they are not dead when you move them around.
So while our water is getting ready and our clams are washing in cold running water, chop your parsley, basil, and peel and slice your garlic into thin slices.
Your water is boiling and now you throw in a dash of sea salt, to help season the pasta…well actually you throw the salt in so that the water is like the Mediterranean……sigh…..
stir your pasta, set the timer for 11 minutes (or the recommended time for your brand), we want the pasta Al Dente, you have teeth, use them. Pasta should be chewed. Now get your large skillet or Saute pan, and pour in the Olive oil, over a high heat place your garlic, clams, basil, and crushed red pepper into the pan and cover.
As the clams cook they will steam open, as they open all the wonderful natural juices will mix with the olive oil and spices making turning your kitchen into an aromatic wonderland. Keep an eye on your clams, they may be done opening a minute or two before the pasta and that’s ok, just turn off the heat and let them sit covered in the pan. Drain your pasta, place into pasta bowls, divide up your clams and then the broth from the pan. Now sprinkle with some good grated Romano cheese ( don’t ever ask for cheese for your clams in Italy, they will think you have no idea how to eat), sprinkle some parsley over top to make it look pretty, and a little black pepper,( if you have a very good bottle of extra virgin olive oil from De Bruno’s or another specialty store drizzle a little over the top, the flavour and aroma from the fresh Olive oil will just add to the experience)
Serve immediately with a nice crusty bread (and extra grated cheese if your like me) and just enjoy this culinary masterpiece…. Completed and served in less than 30 minutes….