The success of this simple sauce, alle vongole in Italian, depends on fresh clams and excellent, fruity, extra-virgin olive oil. Linguine is the pasta of choice, with spaghetti a close runner-up. Add one pound of cooked pasta to the clam sauce to combine; some of the sauce will be absorbed by the pasta but plenty of liquid will remain. Serve the pasta in bowls with its brothy sauce and a sprinkling of parsley. Outside of Italy it is commonplace to see waiters offering grated cheese at the table for this dish, but not in Italy. Grated cheese should simply never be added to seafood sauces for pasta.
Plus: Pasta Recipes and Tips
4 dozen littleneck clams or 4 pounds West Coast steamer clams or cockles
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh oregano or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
5 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
How to Make It
Place the clams in a large bowl and cover with cool water. Stir a handful of flour or cornmeal into the water so that the clams will purge themselves of sand or other foreign matter. refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight. When you are ready to use the clams, scrub them well with a clean, stiff brush.
In a deep nonreactive sauté pan or saucepan large enough to hold the clams, combine the olive oil, parsley, oregano and crushed red pepper. Stir in the garlic and cook gently over moderate heat until softened but not colored, about 4 minutes. Pour in the wine and cook for about 3 minutes to burn off the alcohol. Add the clams and cover immediately. Increase the heat to high and cook until the clams open, 8 to 12 minutes, depending on the kind of clams. Discard any clams that did not open. Set aside a few clams with their shells for garnishing. Then remove the remaining clams from their shells; discard the shells and return the clams to the broth to heat through.
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