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Pates Baroni, c.1921
Pates Baroni, c.1921
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Map of Italy Made from Pasta
Map of Italy Made from Pasta
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Marcialis, Renato
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Spaghetti Alla Vongole, Naples, Italy
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White Clam Sauce

Essentials of
Classic Italian Cooking

by Marcella Hazan, 1993, Alfred A. Knopf

“Everywhere in Venice – or in Italy for that matter – one can eat spaghetti
with clams, but none tastes like the dish Cesare Benelli makes at Al Covo,
the restaurant he owns with his Texan wife, Diane. Cesare’s genial variation
on this timeless theme consists of holding back the natural juices of the just-
opened clams, draining the pasta while it is still underdone, then finishing
the cooking of it in a skillet together with the clam juice. The pasta, by the
time it becomes fully cooked, drinks up all the fresh clam juices, achieving a
density and richness of flavor no other version of the dish can match.”

For 4 servings

1 1/2 dozen littleneck clams
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and
sliced paper thin
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Chopped fresh hot chili pepper,
2 teaspoons, or to taste
1 fresh, ripe, firm plum tomato, cut into
1/2-inch dice with its skin on, but drained
of juice and all seeds removed
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 pound dry pasta
6 fresh basil leaves, torn into
2 or 3 pieces

Recommended pasta:  Spaghettini, thin spaghetti, takes to
clam sauces more successfully than other shapes. A close
enough second is spaghetti.

1. Soak the clams for 5 minutes in a basin or sink filled with cold water. Drain and refill the basin with fresh cold water, leaving in the clams. Vigorously scrub the clams one by one with a very stiff brush. Drain,
refill the basin, and repeat the whole scrubbing operation. Do this 2
or 3 more times, always in fresh changes of water, until you see no
more sand settling to the bottom of the basin. Discard any that, when handled, don’t clamp shut. Put them in a pan broad enough so that
the clams don’t need to be piled up more than 3 deep, cover the pan,
and turn on the heat to high. Check the clams frequently, turning
them over, and remove them from the pan as they open their shells.
2. When all the clams have opened up, take them out of the pan, using a slotted spoon. Try not to stir up the juices in the pan any more than
you must. Detach the clam meat from its shell, and gently swish each
clam in the pan juices to rinse off any sand. Unless they are exception-
ally small, cut them up in 2 or even 3 pieces. Put them in a small bowl,
pour 2 tablespoons olive oil over them, cover the bowl tightly with
plastic wrap, and set it aside for later. Do not refrigerate.
3. Line a strainer with paper towels, and filter the clam juices in the pan through the paper and into another bowl. Set aside for later.
4. Choose a skillet or sauté pan broad enough to contain the pasta later.
Put in 3 tablespoons olive oil and the slice garlic, and turn on the
heat to medium high. Cook the garlic, stirring it, for just a few
seconds, without letting it become colored, then add the parsley
and the chili pepper. Stir once or twice, and add the diced tomato.
Cook the tomato for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring it from time to time,
then add the wine. Simmer the wine for about 20 to 30 seconds,
letting it reduce, then turn off the heat.
5. Cook the pasta in abundant boiling salted water until it is very firm
to the bite, barely short of being fully cooked. When you bite a
piece off, it should feel slightly stiff and the narrowest of chalk-
white cores should be showing in the center of the strand.
6. Turn the heat on to high under the skillet or sauté pan, drain the
pasta and transfer it immediately to the pan. Add all the filtered
clam juice, and cook, tossing and turning the pasta, until all the
juice has evaporated. If the pasta was not too underdone when
you drained it, it should now be perfectly cooked. Taste it and,
in the unlikely event it needs more cooking after the clam juices
have evaporated and been absorbed, add a small amount of water.
7. As soon as the pasta is done, before you turn the heat off, add the
cut-up clams with all the oil in the bowl and the torn basil leaves,
toss in the pan 2 or 3 times, then transfer to a warm platter and
serve at once.

More from Marcella:
Carbonara Sauce
Clam Sauce with Tomatoes
Matching Pasta to Sauce
Tomato Sauce 101

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