Cooking Italy; Spaghetti with white clam sauce
When I first read that we had white clam sauce on the menu for this week’s Cooking Italy, I was seriously doubting that I would be making this. You have to know that I am really not a fan of shelled seafood… I just think they look scary.. But then again; I do love a good coquille and I always think you have to try something first before you can say that you don’t like it. And clams where something I had never tried before, so…. I went in search of clams. Well first I went in search of how clams are called in Dutch… and quite frankly; I still don’t know! So if anyone knows what a clam is called in Dutch please let me know.
I ended up buying ‘kokkels’ which I think is possible translated as cockles? But they look sort of similar to clams, so I figured those would do. It’s not as if you can actually buy those in the shop here. I had to call our one and only fishshop and ask them to bring it. Ofcourse that meant I had to purchase an entire kilo of them, which is really a waste. The good side was that I could practice on how to prepare them as I was – and still am – quite clueless.
The recipe stated that you should put them in a pan on high heat and once opened remove them immediately and the juice would then be used to prepare the rest of the dish. Ok, that sounded fairly simple but what happened when I put the little beasties in the pan is that they did drip some fluids but that evaporated as soon as it hit the really hot pan! So no juice whatsoever was left after the first testrun.
The second try I figured I should ad some oliveoil into the pan before tossing them in and that worked better, although it was really a limited amount of juice. Now I didn’t toss in 20 pieces at one time, so that could have been the issue. Who knows… The recipe also states that you should pour the juices through a paper kitchen towel to get rid of any remaining sand or other stuff that shouldn’t be there, but really… that would have meant that it would all be taken in by the paper! It was that little…
I did feel kind of sorry for the little creatures… being tossed like that into a hot pan and basically being boiled alive.. A bit cruel I thought but ok, they were gonna die anyway at some point.
Apart from that whole cockle/clam adventure it was pretty straightforward, so no surprises there.
Now as far as the taste goes; I was really not impressed. Keep in mind that I am not a fan of shelled fish. There is something about them that just doesn’t really work for me.. Although I have to confess that I am probably just being squamish… I mean…. look at that thing in the shell; that – to me – does not resemble something appetizing! Ofcourse, I am glad that I tried it and I will definitely not be making this again…lol… I also thought that there was not enough juice to follow the recipe. So that part to me was a bit weird. I love pasta and most of the flavors that go with it, but this was a no go for me.
But if you are a fan of shelled fish then this just might be perfect for you! Here is the recipe:
White Clam Sauce (serves 4)
18 live clams in their shells
5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
1,5 tablespoon of chopped parsley
1 red hot chili pepper
1 plum tomato, diced
100 ml dry white wine
450 gr of pasta
6 fresh basil leaves
To clean the clams put them into fresh water with salt for about 20 minutes. They will open up slightly and expel the sand that they have inside. Scrub the clams to clean them of any debris and repeat the process until no more stuff is coming of them.
Once cleaned keep them in a bowl in the fridge, uncovered so they can breath… (this is really weird as they make little popping noises while in the fridge…)
Heat up the clams to open them in hot pan. I found that you need to add either oil or a little bit of water, as otherwise the fluids coming from the clams will immediately evaporate. Make sure to cover the pan as it will jump around a bit.
As soon as the clams open up take them out of the pan using a slotted spoon, take the clams out of their shells and cut into 2 or 3 pieces unless they are very small. Put them in a small bowl and cover with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, cover the bowl tightly with cling film and set aside for later but don’t put in the fridge.
Choose a skillet or saute pan that is large enough to contain the pasta later. Put in 3 tbsp of olive oil and the sliced garlic, and turn the heat up. Don’t let the garlic become coloured, then add the parsley and the chili pepper. Stir once or twice and add the diced tomato. Cook the tomato for 1-2 minutes, stirring it from time to time, then add the wine. Simmer the wine for about 20-30 seconds, letting it reduce, then turn the heat off
Cook the pasta in salted water until it is barely al dente. You don’t want the pasta to be too well done, although I did find that the juice of the clams wasn’t sufficient to cook the pasta till further so my pasta was slightly underdone.
Drain the pasta and add immediately to the skillet or saute pan, turning the heat up high and adding the clam juice. Cook, tossing and turning the pasta, until all the juice has evaporated.
Add the cut up clams with all the oil in the bowl and the torn basil leaves, toss in the pan 2-3 times, then transfer to a hot plate and serve at once.