People often ask me about my favorite foods and restaurants. The moment they find out what I do, I am immediately asked what my favorite pie, Italian restaurant, and/or cocktail is. And my answers are always halting, vague, and laced with caveats. I can’t help it. For me, my favorite anything has so much to do with context. Are we talking lunch or dinner? Upscale or guilty pleasure? What neighborhood am I in? How tired am I? Who am I with? All of these are factors when I decide what I want to eat and drink and where I want to do it. But when it comes to the inevitable pasta question, I always have my answer at the ready because that answer never changes. My favorite pasta is Pasta Alle Vongole. So naturally, it’s the subject of the latest installment of my ongoing series Overthinking Classics.
For me, Pasta Alle Vongole highlights what I love most about pasta and seafood – simplicity. A pasta sauce can be as simple as garlic and olive oil. And good-quality seafood needs little most than a squeeze of lemon juice to shine. The dish pictured here is the Bianco version of Pasta Alle Vongole, which means the sauce pretty much is garlic, olive oil, and lemon juice. The Rosso version isn’t much more complicated. It’s basically the same with some tomato and basil thrown in.
The other thing I love about Pasta Alle Vongole is it is naturally an express meal. Pasta cooks in an instance, clams cook in an instance, so it stands to reason this dish does as well. But as with any fast-paced cook, this does mean you have to be organized. If you’re lax about putting your mise en place together, this dish will stress you out. So take the time to chop what needs to be chopped before introducing anything to the heat. If everything is within arm’s reach when you start, I promise you will enjoy the cooking process so much more. This is a 30-minute meal, after all, there’s no need to cut corners.
If you want more information on crafting this Pasta Alle Vongole, check out the video below. You will also find tons of tips and tricks on how to clean clams, the history surrounding the dish, and some very delicious videography. And if you do enjoy the video, please consider subscribing to my YouTube channel. There you will find all of the Overthinking Classics episodes and a ton of original recipes. I post a new recipe every week and little tidbits along the way.
Pasta Alle Vongole
- Large pot
- Large skillet
- 454g (1 lb) Manila clams **
- 250g (9oz) dried linguine
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 3 shallots halved, sliced thin
- 8 cloves garlic peeled, sliced thin
- 2 pencil hot red chilis *** sliced thin
- 1 preserved lemon **** flesh removed, rind sliced thin
- ½ cup white wine
- ¼ cup fresh flat leaf parsley chopped fine
- lemon wedges to garnish
- First, check the viability of your clams. If any of your clams are open, give them a tap on the counter. If they close, they’re good to go. If they don’t, they’re already dead and should be discarded.454g (1 lb) Manila clams **
- Give the clams a good scrub with a hard bristle brush. Place the scrubbed clams in a bowl of cold salted water. Add roughly a tbsp of salt for every four cups of water. Let sit for 30 minutes to an hour. This will encourage the clams to expel any sand they might still be carrying. Give them a final rinse before cooking. Set them aside.454g (1 lb) Manila clams **
- Place a large pot of water over high heat. When the water reaches a rolling boil, liberally salt the water and add the linguine. Cook the pasta according to the package's direction. About 10 minutes. Make sure you give the noodles a toss every now and then to prevent them from sticking together.250g (9oz) dried linguine
- While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce. Place a large skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil. Once the oil is shimmering, add the shallots, garlic, chilis, and preserved lemon. Give them a sprinkling of salt and saute until just translucent.¼ cup olive oil, 3 shallots, 8 cloves garlic, 2 pencil hot red chilis ***, 1 preserved lemon ****
- Pour in the white wine and add the clams to the pan. Cover the skillet immediately and set the timer for 5 minutes. When the 5 minutes have passed, remove the lid. All the clams should have opened. Discard any that didn’t.½ cup white wine, 454g (1 lb) Manila clams **
- Your pasta should be finished by now. Scoop out about a 1/3 of a cup of the pasta water and drain the pasta. Add the pasta to the skillet and along with a splash of the pasta water. Add the parsley and gently toss the pasta in the pan to ensure it is evenly coated. Once a glossy sauce forms in the bottom of the pan, take the pasta off of the heat immediately.¼ cup fresh flat leaf parsley
- Plate the pasta and garnish with lemon wedges and additional fresh parsley. Serve immediately.lemon wedges