Spaghetti alle Vongole
Spaghetti alle Vongole, Italian for spaghetti and clams, is one of my favorite pasta dishes and probably the easiest to make. I first tasted this dish at Trattoria Gourmet in Shangri-la Plaza Mall and instantly fell in love with it. The taste is so simple, it reminds me of Catbalogan, my hometown.
This dish is traditionally prepared in two ways: with tomatoes (in rosso) and without (in bianco). Traditional ingredients are limited to spaghetti, live clams, garlic, olive oil, parsley, salt and pepper. The live clams open during cooking, releasing a liquid that serves as the main flavoring agent and sauce. Others include white wine to the in bianco version of this dish but I personally prefer this without the wine. Unlike most pasta dishes, cheese is never added to this dish.
Aside from spaghetti, linguine is also a popular pasta used in this dish.
A simple description of this dish is that it tastes like the sea. Therefore, using fresh clams for this dish is a must. Here in the Philippines, halaan or Manila clams is used. I even saw an episode of Martha preparing this dish also using Manila clams. When in Catbalogan, I use mayahini. It’s quite funny how expensive clams are here in Manila. A kilo of these can cost upto P100 in the supermarket while in Catbalogan, I can get the same quantity for only P30!
Here’s my recipe:
- 500 grams dried spaghetti
- 1 kilo fresh halaan or Manila clams
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed and roughly chopped
- 1 small shallot or small white onion
- 3-5 thin ginger slices
- 1/2 T dried red pepper flakes
- 3 T butter
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
Prepare the sauce while the pasta is cooking to ensure that the spaghetti will be hot and ready when the sauce is finished.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the pasta and cook according to package instructions (usually 8 to 10 minutes). Drain the pasta well.
- Meanwhile, heat the olive oil over medium flame in a saute pan.
- Add the garlic, shallot and ginger; saute for 3 minutes then add the dried red pepper flakes, saute for a minute.
- Add the clams. Cover and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until all the clams are opened, about 8-10 minutes. Remove any that have not opened.
- Turn off flame.
- Add the hot, drained spaghetti to the pan; add the butter and season with salt and pepper. Toss the pasta with the clams so it’s nicely coated.
- Serve hot.