Spaghetti alle vongole is a classic Italian dish usually served for the feast of the seven fishes during Christmas Eve dinner or enjoyed year round. This is a very popular dish throughout Italy especially in Rome or Naples and can be prepared “in bianco” or white, and “in rosso” or red. The white version is perhaps the most well known while the red version, which contains tomato, is less known and more commonly seen around the southern regions of Italy.
There are many ways to prepare this dish as far as which ingredients to use. For example, you may use large or smaller clams about the size of a thumbnail when preparing the dish alle vongole veraci. Carpet clams are typically used but you can substitute for littleneck clams, bean clams or small cherrystone clams. You can also choose to utilize linguine instead of spaghetti when choosing your pasta. Many families, restaurants and individuals have their own preferred way of preparing this delicious pasta dish; feel free to be creative and add ingredients of your choice and create your own version if you desire.
Spaghetti alle vongole is a quick dish to make as the sauce only takes minutes to prepare and you can do so while boiling your pasta. When it comes to the clams, you should always check to make sure that they are live by tapping on any open ones to see if they close. The clams should also not have a fishy smell, but should have mild saltwater smell. If they smell like fish, do not eat them. Soak the clams in cold water with a few teaspoons of salt added for 20 to 30 minutes to get rid of any sand they might still have in them and then rinse under cold water to clean them well.
You can choose to make variations to my recipe by adding other ingredients of your choice, omit adding the dry chili if you don’t like heat or add more if you are a lover of spicy dishes. I added shiitake and oyster mushrooms but you can choose to use any mushroom of your preference or not add them at all. The sauce should have a delicious briny, ocean flavor because of the juice released by clams while cooking, should have a nice garlic flavor and spicy depending on how much chili you added if any. Today I offer you my version of spaghetti alle vongole in bianco; if you like this dish I strongly recommend you to try the red or “al rosso” version as well.
Ingredients for 2 or 3 people:
1 lb littleneck clams
1 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms
1 cup sliced oyster mushrooms
5 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly (add less if you wish)
1 cup chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
1 dried hot chili (optional)
6 oz spaghetti
1/2 cup dry white wine
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Start by preparing a pot of boiling water to cook your spaghetti in. Add only a small amount of salt to the water as this dish has a good amount of salt in in already from the briny juice within the clams. Cook your pasta according to the instructions on the package or “al dente” which means that the pasta should be soft on the outside with a little resistance in the middle. You should start preparing your sauce while boiling the spaghetti or 5-6 minutes before the pasta is ready. Strain the pasta and remember to reserve about 1/4 cup of the pasta water.
Prepare a pan with a lid for your sauce, place over medium heat and add 1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil or just enough oil to cover the entire bottom of the pan. Add the garlic, chili and mushrooms and sauté until the garlic has slightly browned. At this point add the clams along with 1/2 cup of dry white wine. Raise the heat to high and cover. Cook 3 to 6 minutes depending on the size of your clams. You should know when your clams are ready when they open; discard any clam that hasn’t opened up. Remove the clams from the sauce and set aside. Add the parsley to the sauce, stir and taste. Season with salt and pepper if needed or to your preference.
Combine the cooked spaghetti with the sauce, add 1/4 cup of the cooking water from the spaghetti as this will make the sauce adhere nicely to the pasta and not make it too dry. Toss the spaghetti until the sauce has evenly coated the pasta. At this point you can choose to add the cooked clams before tossing the spaghetti or you can choose to serve them on the plate separately.