I was never interested in spaghetti alle vongole (spaghetti with clams) until I stayed in Naples for a week for work and ate dinner by myself. Without the influence of friends’ orders, I let the waiter bring me his choice from the menu. Maybe because I was an obvious tourist or maybe because it’s one of the things you have to eat when you go to Naples (along with pizza and sfogliatelle, and a few other really good things), spaghetti alle vongole is what he brought. It was absolutely perfect. The right degree of spiciness, perfect al dente spaghetti — perfect everything. Though Romans do it well, too, the Naples dish conquered my palate. This week, Casey Barber, recipe developer and editor of Good.Food.Stories., shares her own recipe for Drunken Spaghetti with Clams, an equally tasty variation on the theme. If you are curious about cooking seafood and need a go-to guide, I highly recommend the book Fish by Mitch Tonks, which not only has the names of fish in four languages (great for me here in Italy!) but also notes the buying season and includes great recipes. More about Casey and her recipe after the jump. — Kristina
About Casey: Casey Barber is a freelance writer and recipe developer, as well as the editor of Good. Food. Stories., an online magazine focusing on food from a storyteller’s perspective. She has written about everything from homemade Cheez-Its and down-and-dirty dive bars to the culinary influence of the World’s Fair for Gourmet Live, ReadyMade, iVillage, Time Out New York and other print and online publications. Casey can often be found making a huge mess in her New Jersey kitchen, heading into New York to buy yet another cake stand at Fishs Eddy or plotting her next trip home to Pittsburgh for a Primanti’s sandwich.
Drunken Spaghetti with Clams
Makes 4 servings
Notes: Inspect your clams and discard any broken or cracked ones. Place your clams in a bowl of water large enough to cover them with an inch or two of water. Add a tiny bit of salt. Let the clams sit for a while — 20 minutes to two hours — so that they release their sand. Discard any clams that float. Remove the clams with a strainer from the water. Once you cook the clams, you should also discard any that do not open.
- 2 bottles dry white wine (I’m currently obsessed with Albarino, but because of the quantity needed, an inexpensive Pinot Grigio will work well.)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 32 littleneck clams, shells rinsed and scrubbed
- 1 pound spaghetti
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- freshly ground black pepper and kosher salt
- 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, minced
1. Bring 2 quarts of water and 1 bottle of white wine to a boil in a lidded stockpot.
2. When the water and wine are almost to a boil, warm the olive oil in a large sauté pan or high-sided skillet over medium-low heat and add the garlic and red pepper flakes.
3. Cook, stirring, for a minute to release the aromas, then add 1 + 1/2 cups white wine and boost the heat to medium-high, bringing the wine to a simmer.
4. Add the clams and cover the pan to steam until they open, approximately 7 to 8 minutes.
5. Toss the spaghetti into the stockpot of boiling water and wine and stir to submerge, cooking until al dente.
6. Remove the opened clams from the pan and reserve, covered. While the pan sauce continues to simmer for a few more minutes, reducing slightly. Monitor sauce from time to time. Remember, the more it reduces the saltier it will taste.
7. Stir the butter into the pan sauce and add salt and pepper as needed to taste.
8. Remove the cooked pasta from its pot with tongs and transfer to the pan sauce, stirring to coat.
9. Divide the pasta between 4 bowls. Top each with 8 clams and a sprinkled handful of parsley. Drink the rest of the remaining bottle of white wine with your meal.
Photography and styling by Kristina Gill. White dipping bowl by mud australia; cutting board by Andrea Brugi; napkin and small glass from Merci; yellow glass from Zara Home; all other items vintage
Why Casey Loves This Recipe
Clams are hands-down my favorite bivalve (scratch that, my favorite seafood), and I’m obsessively reading every recipe for spaghetti alle vongole I lay eyes on to get new ideas for making a big bowl of the stuff. This “Frankensteinian” combo was inspired by Ferran Adria, who adds clam broth instead of salt to the pasta water, and the Tuscan dish, spaghetti all’ubriaco, in which pasta is simmered in red wine.