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October 20, 2009

Linguine, spaghetti (Recipe: pasta with clams and vegetable sauce)

A favorite post from the archives, updated with a new recipe, photos and links. 

Pasta with clams and vegetable sauce

One noodle, two noodles, red noodles, blue noodles.

Red sun-dried tomato ravioli. Blue curacao linguine from Giacomo Rizzo, our favorite pasta shop in Venice. Pasta shaped like sombreros, ear lobes, wagon wheels, stars, and corkscrews.

And the "long and stringies": linguine, capellini, fedelini, vermicelli, bucatini, spaghetti, spaghettini, spaghettoni.

Roll the names around on your tongue. You can almost taste the pasta.

You don't have to be Italian to love pasta, but you have to love pasta that's made in the Italian way, from durum semolina, semola di grano duro, the coarsely ground hard wheat, high in gluten, golden in color. The real thing. But if you cannot eat gluten, take heart; there are long and stringy pastas made from rice, corn and potatoes.

With pasta, shape matters. There are, according to Zingerman's Guide to Good Eating, something like 500 shapes of pasta. Each has a perfect mate, a sauce that clings but isn't clingy, that enhances and celebrates the pasta.

Linguine

For the long and stringy pastas, choose a sauce that matches the thickness of the strands. For heavier shapes like spaghetti and linguine, go for something substantial, a basic marinara, meat, or cheese sauce, or olive oil/garlic/bread crumbs. Thinner pastas, like capellini (angel hair), can take more delicate sauces, often with seafood. Bucatini likes a bit of spice in a sauce that gets trapped inside the hollow tubes, surprising you with every bite.

To cook pasta properly (and there is a proper way), give it space, give it salt, give it heat, and give it flavor. First, bring many quarts of water to a full boil, at least one quart per quarter pound of pasta. No matter how much or how little pasta you're cooking, give the pasta -- and its starch -- plenty of room to swim. When the water boils, add a couple of tablespoons (yes, tablespoons) of sea salt. Add your pasta, give it a stir to make sure it's not sticking together or to the bottom of the pot, and bring it back to the boil. Stir every now and then.

(By the way, don't add oil to your pasta water. It will make the pasta slippery, and sauce won't be able to grab on to it.)

Two minutes before the end of the recommended cooking time on the package, start tasting the pasta. (If you're going to serve your pasta hot, with a sauce, it's best to finish cooking the pasta in the sauce.) It should be just shy of al dente, tender outside and firm (but not raw) on the inside. Never, ever rinse the pasta unless you are planning to serve it cold; you'll wash away all of the lovely starch.

Store long and stringy pasta in your pantry for a year or more, so you'll always be prepared when the urge hits for spaghetti zucchini e limone, linguine con sarde, spaghetti salad, Cajun fried linguine with andouille and fresh sage, or tried-and-true spaghetti and meatballs.

Pasta with clams and vegetable sauce

Twenty years ago, this recipe, inspired by one of the Frugal Gourmet cookbooks, was a favorite in our house. Until recently, I hadn't made it for years, but it was so delicious that I can't imagine why it fell out of the repertoire. The recipe calls for canned clams and dried linguine or spaghetti, all of which I keep in the pantry, but fresh littlenecks and fresh pasta would be lovely, too. Just remember to reduce the cooking time if you use fresh ingredients. Serves 4 as a main dish.

Ingredients

1 lb linguine or spaghetti (I use dried pasta from the pantry)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 rib celery, diced
1/2 large green pepper, diced
2 medium zucchini, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 large ripe tomato, chopped
1/2 lb button mushrooms, diced
2 6-oz cans chopped clams -- drain one and reserve the liquid from the other
1/4 cup chicken stock
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves, or 1/2 Tbsp dried thyme
1 large pinch red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/2 tsp ground black pepper, or to taste
Kosher salt, to taste
1/2 cup grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano or asiago cheese, or more to taste

Directions

In a very large nonstick frying pan over low-medium heat, sauté onion, celery and pepper in 2 Tbsp olive oil, for 1-2 minutes. Add garlic and zucchini, and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add clams and liquid from one can, stock, oregano and black pepper, stir, and cook for 2 minutes. Increase heat to high; add tomato and mushrooms, and cook for 3 minutes or until vegetables are just beginning to get tender. 

Drain the pasta and add it to the pan. Stir well to combine. Cook for an additional minute or two, until the vegetables are done.

If the sauce is not thick enough (the starch from the pasta usually will thicken the sauce nicely), at the last minute, add the arrowroot solution a few drops at a time right into the boiling liquid in the pan, and stir until mixture is desired thickness (stay right with it; this will happen very quickly, and you don't want it to turn to goo).

Transfer pasta to a platter, sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano, and serve hot.


More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Linguine with tomato-olive sauce
Sicilian-style spaghetti
One-one-one spaghetti sauce
Broccoli, basil and pasta salad
Pasta with chunky vegetable sauce
Chicken lo mein
Curried shrimp and pasta salad

Comments

I love this. I'm going to make this at home. Thanks for sharing.

Pasta and noodles are so versatile! Love the recipe as well!

i think i will change the green bell pepper with some red.. i love the color combination..

Have you seen that an Encyclopedia of Pasta has just been published? Imagine the entries for those more than 500 shapes of pasta!

plain pasta was on the menu for tonight, but I think this will have to be it instead. many thanks

Lydia, Great, great tips!! And I'm glad you highlighted the need for lots of salt in the boiling water. Not enough people do that and it makes a huge difference.

Also, did you know that the benefit of adding oil to the water is that it breaks the water surface tension? So if your pasta pot has a tendency to boil over, the oil will help.

Wow Lydia, great ingrediants!
I have never put vegetables together with clams (just tomatoes), so as usual, I am always inspired and learn a great deal while enjoying your blog.

I have been craving clam sauce for the past few weeks. I have to say I've never seen one with this many vegetables, but it sounds delicious!

1/4 cup chicken stock......

should that actually read 1/4 cup wine? directions doesnt mention stock but it does wine. I hope its wine....I have no stock on hand.

[Good catch -- it should be chicken stock, but your wine will work just as well. Thanks! Lydia]

Mmm, pasta is my favourite food. And I think Italian is the world's most beautiful language.
Love the pasta dish - I have never made pasta with clams before - I should definitely try it soon!

I seldom think of seafood with pasta, however this sounds wonderful and it would be easy to keep the ingredients on hand.

It's crucial to use the right sized pot and enough water. Too many people simply don't look at the instructions on the box!

Miss Lydia,
Glad to see someone else still clings with fond memories to some of Frugal Gourmet's recipes. Shame what a messed up person he turned out to be. Thanks for reminding me of this one!

Cooking Ninja, Anh, Natashya, Jason: This recipe is really one of our favorites, and it's so easy to make.

Droool, the red peppers will be gorgeous and will make the dish that much sweeter. Enjoy!

TW, if only Dreamfields would make more than 6 shapes of their delicious low-glycemic pasta....

Julia, thank you. I did not know that about the oil and surface tension.

Milton, good catch. Should be chicken stock, but wine will work just as well. (I've fixed the recipe.)

Pam, the tomatoes really play a small part in this dish, which makes it really different and refreshing. Hope you like it.

Janel, this combination of vegetables seems to work well with the clams, but of course you can substitute with whatever you have.

Janet, good reminder. It's true -- we are always looking for shortcuts.

Ivy, I always liked his food. As for the other, well, it's a shame.

Oh Yummy! This just looks so good!!

I made this dish for dinner last night. It was very tasty....not one morsel leftover. It might just be me not being much of a salt person, but between the salt in the pasta water and the clams I wouldnt be to quick to add any more salt to the dish. Again, just me

Thanks for the recipe. It looks so good. I will have to try that

I like to use Stephanie’s Seasoning Salt on my pasta, it is all-natural and all-purpose. Also no fillers, caking agents, sugars and MSG. A lot more flavors to pick from.

Wow, this looks good. I'll have to give this a try. I usually make it slightly different.

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  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my log house kitchen in rural northwest Rhode Island, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives.

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