As part of the CookForFamily initiative, I have prepared this dish for my family this Sunday. It is a revisited version of the classic "spaghetti alle vongole". In the classic recipe which you would find in most books, the clams are sauteé'd in olive oil with white wine and parsley, and finally the pasta is added to the pan. The issue with this sort of recipe is that the flavor of clams tends to be too subtle and get lost. Also, the sauce will be too liquid and lack in depth. My version on the other hand has greater depth in flavour due to higher density of the sauce and concentration of the flavour. My additional touch is the ginger and lemon zest, which provide a boost of freshness to the dish. Although linguini or spaghetti are the best match for this sauce, my family is quite bored with those classics, so I picked something a bit different, with rougher textural qualities.
This is what I used to make this pasta:
- 1 inch of ginger
- A pack of white clams (you can find these in FairPrice or Cold Storage)
- A bunch of Italian parsley
- 1 lemon
- 1 Zucchini
- 1/2 glass of white wine
- 1 Fennel bulb (this can be bought at FairPrice, or replaced by celery)
- Chili as required (I used 2)
- Some breadcrumbs (I use Japanese panko)
- 15ml of Light extra virgin olive oil (suitable for fish)
- A few cherry tomatoes (I used aged pomodorini del Piennolo, but these cannot be found in Singapore)
- For the pasta I used long fusilli (180 gr x 2/3 people), however you can use linguini or spaghetti.
- Wash the clams in ice water, then rinse them and set them aside. Save a few of them for decoration.
- Cut the fennel bulb into 4 pieces
- Peel the lemon and keep the zest
- Peel 1 inch of Ginger and slice it into 3
- Cut the zucchini into Julienne strips
- Chop half of the parsley
- Heat up some olive oil in a medium pot, then add the clams and cover over high heat.
- Once they open, add the white wine and let evaporate for a couple of minutes.
- Add the fennel, ginger and lemon into the pot, and top up with hot water to almost cover the ingredients. Reduce the heat to medium or low, just letting the stock bubble slowly for about 10 minutes.
- Add the unchopped parsley and reduce for another 5 minutes.
- Strain the stock with a fine colander and pour it into a large frying pan. Bring to a slow boil, add some more lemon zest and the chilies if you like a bit of spice, as well as a pinch of breadcrumbs (about a tablespoon).
- Let it reduce down to a third, or until the sauce is slightly dense (probably about 15 minutes).
- As you will keep the sauce going waiting for the pasta to be ready, you need to maintain it at this level of density, so add a tablespoon of boiling water from the pasta pot if required.
- In the meantime, bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and put in the pasta (no salt required).
- Put the spare clams into the saucepan and cover. Wait until they open, then set them aside.
- 2 minutes before the pasta is ready, add the zuccchini and the cherry tomatoes to the sauce and cover.
- Remove the pasta 1 minute before its cooking time, and put it straight into the frying pan, quickly tossing it into the sauce together with half of the chopped parsley as well as 1/4 of teaspoon of salt.
- Toss for about a minute or until the pasta is "al dente", adding water if required to loosen the sauce.
- Remove from the fire, then top with extra virgin olive oil and mix it into the sauce.
- Plate into individual portions, decorating with the parsley, extra clams and cherry tomatoes.
The skill is to time everything so that the pasta will be perfectly cooked when the sauce will have the perfect density. This may require a few attempts for beginners.
It is a family tradition for us to cook at home every Sunday lunch, but I came up with this particular pasta just for the CookForFamily event. It came out perfectly and was extremely well received by the family! There was not a single droplet of sauce left on the plates, and I was asked to repeat it again next week. There is nothing more fulfilling than a new dish being so appreciated by your own family. Why not try this yourself for your own family next Sunday?