Clam pasta, otherwise known as vongole, is one of my favourite pasta dishes. Traditionally Neapolitan, this dish is made both with and without tomatoes. I prefer it as the latter made with white wine (of course), so that the silky sauce coats the strands of spaghetti transparently, flecked with red chilli and parsley. It is total simplicity, and in the amount of time it takes to cook the pasta, the wine should have reduced and the clams wide-mouthed and ready to be incorporated into the pasta.
The final cooking of the spaghetti with the clam sauce is quite important, as it allows the pasta to soak up some of the juices. I clickity clacked through my bowl in record time.
Spaghetti alle Vongole
900gr live clams (mine came from Moxon's)
400gr dried spaghetti
3 fat cloves of garlic
1 red chilli (use a fat long one; a bird's eye would be too much here)
200ml white wine
A hefty handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped finely
1/2 a lemon, zested and juiced
A knob of butter
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt & pepper
Rinse the clams in plenty of cold running water for 10 minutes.
In a large pan, melt the butter and the oil together. Slice the garlic finely, and mince the chilli. Add this to the pan with the lemon zest to sweat gently on a low heat. Add the white wine and simmer well until half the liquid has evaporated.
Boil some water for the spaghetti and set the pasta on.
Add the clams to the wine sauce and place a lid on top - cook on a high heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Check them and as soon as they look as if most of them have opened take them off the heat.
By now, your pasta should be al dente (or, take it off the heat when it is). Drain and add the pasta to the clams, tossing and stirring gently over the residual heat of your hob until all of it is combined. Add the lemon juice and the parsley, season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately.