Real Italian cuisine is always on the ‘minimalist’ side. What I find is that Italians almost always favour dishes with a few simple ingredients, emphasizing on the natural flavours of the produce. Pasta alle vongole, pasta with clams, is a great example of a dish bursting with flavours, made with only a couple of simple ingredients. It’s packed with natural umami from clams, at the same time garlicky, and with just a hint of spiciness. Easy, elegant, and delicious, pasta with clams is an irresistible Italian dish.
Ingredients (serves 1):
- 1 serving pasta
- 250g clams
- 2-3 cloves garlic
- 1/2tsp crushed red pepper
- 50-60ml white wine
- dried / fresh parsley to taste
- salt, pepper to taste
- ‘nduja 1tsp, or any Italian hot sausage (filling only)
- zest of lemon
- Soak clams in cold water for 20-60 minutes, this will make clams expel sand from inside. Rinse clams, scrub clean if necessary. Discard broken or ones that don’t close.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil, then cook the pasta according to package instructions.
- While cooking pasta, heat 2-3tsp oil in a skillet, sauté garlic over medium-high heat for 1-2 minutes, till golden. Add crushed red pepper, stir well.
- Optional: Add ‘nduja, stir-fry for around 15 seconds till fragrant.
- Add the clams and white wine, cover, and simmer until all the clams open, around 3-5 minutes. Discard any clams that don’t open.
- The pasta should be just shy of al dente at this point. Transfer drained pasta to the skillet with clams. Add parsley and black pepper to taste, toss to mix.
- Transfer cooked clams to a plate, let the pasta absorb the juice. Once liquid is reduced and pasta is cooked to your liking, taste and add salt, turn off the heat.
- Return clams to the skillet, add lemon zest to taste, mix well and serve immediately.
- Normally pasta is cooked in salted water. You probably don’t need salt, as seafood will be a little salty.
- Clam cooking time may vary depending on size
- Add pasta cooking water to skillet if there is not enough liquid remained, after transferring pasta to the skillet.
- Adjust amount of crushed red pepper according to your preference.
Garnish the dish with additional lemon zest, and grated Parmesan, if desired.
The ‘nduja / hot Italian sausage brings more complexity to the taste profile, while lemon zest adds refreshing aroma to balance out the spiciness. Those little twists definitely make a traditional pasta dish more interesting.