Yes, spaghetti like in Pasta. Living in Italy I became fascinated with the variety of regional dishes. There are 21 regions in Italy, mostly composed of former Dukedoms and Principalities. All developed their own distinctive cuisine and Rome has its own cuisine very typical of what Romans ate 2500 years ago, which includes the Jewish cuisine of Rome which has nothing to do with anything seen anywhere in Europe or North America and was a surprise and a great culinary delicacy.
Most dishes in Italy and what is considered proper Italian cuisine is based on meats, beef, veal, poultry, lamb and 8 week old lamb cutlets, fish, seafood, rabbit, boar.
There is very little pasta as such, reason being that pasta is the poor man’s diet and pizza is truly for the down and out of society. Pasta is only a few centuries old so it entered the Italian cuisine fairly late in its history.
I was speaking with a friend at the Club and she mentioned to me that she loved spaghetti with clams (alle vongole) these are small white clams. Did I know of a recipe to make such. Well it is a favourite of Italians in the Summer and you can find it on any good restaurant menu. So I consulted two well known and well rated Italian cooking books. The first one is called the SILVER SPOON (Il cucchiaio d’argento) printed in 1950 and still in its 9 th edition the most sold Italian cooking book in the world. The book has over 2000 recipes.
The other one is the famous book by Marcella Hazan,(1924-2013) The Classic Italian Cookbook, a wonderful book and a classic, James Beard loved her book.
I counted 29 recipes with various sauces to accompany your plate of Spaghetti. Please note not one with meat sauce or meat balls, that is strictly speaking an American invention by poor Italian immigrants, you will not see it in Italy. You cannot mix meat and pasta in Italian cuisine as they are seen as two separate components of a meal on separate plates.
You can have your spaghetti with sauces of tuna, anchovies (the fresh fish), green onions, clams, lobster, shrimp, eggplant, raw tomato, garlic and chili oil, artichokes, capers, broccoletti, zucchini, breadcrumbs, capers, brocoli etc. I have eaten many of those dishes and they are wonderful.
Here is the recipe for Spaghetti with clam sauce (alle Vongole).
For 4 servings
1 1/2 dozen littleneck clams
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and
sliced paper thin
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 fresh, ripe, firm plum tomato, cut into
1/2-inch dice with its skin on, but drained
of juice and all seeds removed
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 pound dry pasta
6 fresh basil leaves, torn into
2 or 3 pieces
Recommended pasta: Spaghettini, thin spaghetti, takes to
clam sauces more successfully than other shapes. A close
enough second is spaghetti.
1. Soak the clams for 5 minutes in a basin or sink filled with cold water. Drain and refill the basin with fresh cold water, leaving in the clams. Vigorously scrub the clams one by one with a very stiff brush. Drain,
refill the basin, and repeat the whole scrubbing operation. Do this 2
or 3 more times, always in fresh changes of water, until you see no
more sand settling to the bottom of the basin. Discard any that, when handled, don’t clamp shut. Put them in a pan broad enough so that
the clams don’t need to be piled up more than 3 deep, cover the pan,
and turn on the heat to high. Check the clams frequently, turning
them over, and remove them from the pan as they open their shells.
2. When all the clams have opened up, take them out of the pan, using a slotted spoon. Try not to stir up the juices in the pan any more than
you must. Detach the clam meat from its shell, and gently swish each
clam in the pan juices to rinse off any sand. Unless they are exception-
ally small, cut them up in 2 or even 3 pieces. Put them in a small bowl,
pour 2 tablespoons olive oil over them, cover the bowl tightly with
plastic wrap, and set it aside for later. Do not refrigerate.
3. Line a strainer with paper towels, and filter the clam juices in the pan through the paper and into another bowl. Set aside for later.
4. Choose a skillet or sauté pan broad enough to contain the pasta later.
Put in 3 tablespoons olive oil and the slice garlic, and turn on the
heat to medium high. Cook the garlic, stirring it, for just a few
seconds, without letting it become colored, then add the parsley. Stir once or twice, and add the diced tomato.
Cook the tomato for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring it from time to time,
then add the wine. Simmer the wine for about 20 to 30 seconds,
letting it reduce, then turn off the heat.
5. Cook the pasta in abundant boiling salted water until it is very firm
to the bite, barely short of being fully cooked. When you bite a
piece off, it should feel slightly stiff and the narrowest of chalk-
white cores should be showing in the center of the strand.
6. Turn the heat on to high under the skillet or sauté pan, drain the
pasta and transfer it immediately to the pan. Add all the filtered
clam juice, and cook, tossing and turning the pasta, until all the
juice has evaporated. If the pasta was not too underdone when
you drained it, it should now be perfectly cooked. Taste it and,
in the unlikely event it needs more cooking after the clam juices
have evaporated and been absorbed, add a small amount of water.
7. As soon as the pasta is done, before you turn the heat off, add the
cut-up clams with all the oil in the bowl and the torn basil leaves,
toss in the pan 2 or 3 times, then transfer to a warm platter and
serve at once.