Spaghetti alle Vongole (Spaghetti with Clams)


clam sauce plated:bowl*

Pardon my absence, for those of you who noticed. I like to say that I’ve been traveling in search of recipes to share.   Research is very important! Ha ha!!

This recipe for Spaghetti Alle Vongole, was “researched” about 25 years ago on my first trip to Italy.   We were to visit the Amalfi Coast, and all I heard about for weeks prior was “wait until you taste the spaghetti alle vongole in Positano,” or any of the beautiful towns that dot the coastline in this area of Italy.  I couldn’t imagine what my taste buds were soon to experience. My mom did make linguine with clam sauce occasionally, especially on meatless Friday nights, but clams were hard to find in those days of my childhood, so she would use the large cherrystone clams, and sometimes she would even add a can of Progresso Clam Sauce. Horrors, right?!   This was as close as you could get to this Neopolitan classic at this time. Most restaurants made it with chopped clams, tons of chopped garlic and way too much oil. I liked this dish, but I couldn’t imagine it transforming my life, as promised.

Even during the entire 8 ½ hour plane ride to Rome, and the 4 hour drive to the Amalfi Coast, my fellow travelers were salivating in anticipation of this dish of spaghetti alle vongole. Well let me tell you, if you have not had the pleasure, my first bite was something my taste buds will never forget. There is truly no way to explain it. You have to experience it for yourself. You can actually taste the sea as you overlook the beautiful blue water, blue sky and a landscape of undefined beauty.

We have spent years trying to duplicate this recipe. We’ve returned many times to the Amalfi Coast in honor of “research.”   I believe this recipe is as close as we can get to duplicating this fantastic pasta dish. However, our clams ( please use Manila clams or cockles) do not taste of the Mediterranean Sea, and the view is only in our memories, marked forever.

RECIPE:  serves 4

3 to 4 lbs cockles or Manila clams  (well scrubbed)

1/2 cup virgin olive oil…plus extra for drizzling

4 garlic cloves, sliced thin,

1/2 tsp. of crushed red pepper…or to taste

1 quart cherry tomatoes, halved ( I like to use red and yellow or orange)

1/2 cup finely chopped parsley

juice of 1/2 lemon

1/4 cup of dry white wine (preferably Italian)

1 pound Spaghetti  ( you’re probably wondering why not use linguine, but we do not!)

Sea salt

  1.  In a large skillet or pot with a cover, over medium heat, combine the oil, garlic, and red pepper.  Saute for 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Add the tomatoes and half the parsley.  Cook until fragrant and the tomatoes begin to melt.
  3. Add the clams to the pan, along with the wine, lemon juice and sea salt to taste.  Bring to a boil.
  4. Cook until the clams open.
  5. Meanwhile, in a large pot of salted water, cook the spaghetti until al dente. Drain and add to the skillet.
  6. Drizzle with olive oil and add remaining parsley. Mix well and turn out onto a bowl.

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