Linguine with White Clam Sauce

It’s so hard making the time for everyone that you’d like to spend time with!  I’ve found that about the best way to manage it is to invite folks over for whatever dinner you were going to make anyway.  It’s a nice bonus if it turns out to be a dish you’re proud to serve to guests.  And better still if you’re serving it, as I was tonight, to people who are just happy to have been invited and to have a chance to catch up a little.  Big thumbs up to a couple of neighborhood pals who accommodated my tardiness and were most gracious about my one pot meal tonight!

I decided on linguine with white clam sauce expressly because it was a one pot meal.  I knew I’d be a little close on time and this is a relatively quick dish.  Add some crusty bread and you’re ready to roll.  If you have time (I did not) throw in a salad.  This is another of those simple dishes where I think the ingredients make a big difference.  I use fresh clams, partly because they taste better and partly because the presentation is so great.  Tonight, for ease of eating and to limit the dishes I needed, after they were steamed I shucked all the clams except for one per dish.  These were big, beautiful clams and out of two dozen only one didn’t open.  Awesome.  I am privileged to be in possession of a custom mix of dried, crushed hot pepper provided by a lovely friend, but you can substitute crushed red pepper if need be.  A critical part of this dish.  Everything else is easy – garlic, clam juice, onion, oregano (dried from my garden), linguine, parsley and butter.

I think the key to this is letting the broth boil and reduce.  That’s what gives it the rich flavor that you hope for in this dish.  And don’t skip the added butter at the end.  That gives the broth a velvety finish that makes the difference between good and great.  Don’t skip the parsley either.  It’s not just a garnish.  It adds a wonderful green sweetness that is a perfect counterpoint to the briny broth.  I finish mine with just a touch of grated parmesan.  What isn’t made better by just a little cheese after all?

This is good, good, good.  It got a thumbs up from both of my lovely guests and I’m already really looking forward to leftovers.  Really.

Good? Good, Good, Good!
Easy? Yes, mostly
Good for company? Most definitely.
Special shopping? I think fresh clams are the key.

Linguine with White Clam Sauce

Ingredients

12 ounces linguine, cooked to al dente
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3/4 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup bottled clam juice
2 dozen medium fresh clams
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Parmesan cheese, garnish

Directions

Heat oil in a 5- to 6-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté onion, stirring, until golden, about 4 minutes. Add garlic, red pepper flakes, and oregano and cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic is golden, about 2 minutes. Stir in wine and clam juice and boil, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until slightly reduced, 4-5 minutes.

Cook pasta in a 6- to 8-quart pot of boiling salted water until al dente, then drain in a colander.

While pasta is cooking, stir clams into sauce and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until cockles open wide, 4 to 6 minutes. (Discard any cockles that have not opened after 6 minutes.) Remove from heat and stir in butter until melted.

Add pasta to clam mixture along with parsley and salt to taste, then toss with sauce until combined.

Finish with 1/2 t freshly grated parmesan cheese.

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