Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Linguine with Red Clam Sauce

Linguini alle vongole originated in the Campania region of Italy, and is generally prepared in two ways: with tomatoes (rosso) and without (bianco). The most popular type of pasta used is linguine, which means "little tongues" in Italian. The essentials are quite simple: fresh clams with the taste of the sea, complimented by the pale scent of wine, the hearty flavor of garlic, the fruity flavour of olive oil and the peppery taste of parsley. One of the ultimate Italian comfort foods, Linguine with Red Clam Sauce is simple to prepare and is molto gusto. I generally use a combination of fresh clams — littleneck clams, pasta clams and cockles — steaming them open in a little white wine then adding homemade tomato sauce and clam juice for extra flavour.

Littleneck clam (left), cockle (centre) and pasta clam (right)

Fresh basil, oregano, parsley and a dash of Pernod are added to the sauce at the end of the cooking, adding a bright and fresh note to this wonderfully fragrant and absolutely delicious sauce — a true seafood classic.

Linguine with Red Clam Sauce
Serves 4

1 pound linguine
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil 
3 cloves garlic, sliced thin 
3 anchovy fillets 
Pinch of crushed red pepper 
1 cup dry white or red wine 
2 cups diced tomatoes (or homemade sauce)
20 littleneck clams, scrubbed
16 pasta clams, scrubbed
16 cockles, scrubbed
1 15 oz. can whole clams and juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley, and extra for garnish
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 tsp Pernod, optional
Parmesan or Pecorino cheese, optional
1 loaf crusty baguette, sliced

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the linguine and cook until al dente, 8 to 9 minutes. Drain the pasta in a colander, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid. Return the pasta to the pot and toss with the cooking liquid. Cover and set aside.

Heat the oil in a medium stockpot over high heat. Add garlic and anchovies and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add crushed red pepper and cook for a few seconds. Add the wine and clam juice, and cook until it reduces by half, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Add the larger clams first, then the smaller one a moment or two later, cover the pot and cook until the clams open. Discard any that don't open.

Remove the clams with a slotted spoon to a bowl. Bring the liquid that the clams have cooked in to a boil over high heat and cook until reduced by half. Season with fresh ground black pepper and a dash of Pernod, if you wish.

Return the clams to this mixture along with the canned clams. Stir in the cooked pasta, parsley, oregano and basil until combined and warmed through. Serve in warm large shallow bowls and garnish with chopped parsley. Serve with a basket of hot sliced baguette.