Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Linguine with Red Clam Sauce

Recently, my sister and brother-in-law bought me a shellfish grilling grate.  It combines two things that I really love ... shellfish and grilling.  Once I had the grate, I immediately began thinking of different recipes that I could make.  The grate can be used to grill all sorts of shellfish, from mussels, to clams, to oysters.   For me, the appropriate starting point was the grilling of clams.  

I still needed a recipe.  My mind turned to a recipe of pasta with clams.  The Italians would call it spaghetti alla vongole or spaghetti with clams.  I looked at a few recipes, and settled on one from Food & Wine magazine.  The recipe called for the use of packaged clams or for fresh clams that would be steamed with the sauce.  I decided to adapt that recipe by using not only the packaged clams, but also adding a step for grilled clams.  This meant that the recipe would have double the clams, which, like most culinary things, meant it would be twice as good.

The use of grilled clams was truly an inspiration.  Grilling clams is much better than steaming clams.  For one thing, the grilled clams were perfect, just the right texture and sitting in a little bath of clam juice.  Quite a few of those clams never made it to the final dish, because I kept eating them as I prepared the pasta and sauce.  Nevertheless, the process of grilling clams produced a briny, tasty shellfish that elevated this traditional pasta dish into a completely different and much better experience.   

Recipe adapted from Food & Wine
Serves 4

1 bag of little neck clams
1/4 cup olive oil
4 large cloves of garlic, chopped
2/3 cup of dry white wine
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Pinch of dried red pepper flakes
3 cups of canned crushed tomatoes in thick puree
     (one 28 ounce can)
1 cup bottled clam juice
1 1/4 teaspoons salt, more, if needed
3/4 pound of chopped clams, drained (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black  pepper
3/4 pound linguine

1.  Grill the clams.  Heat a grill on high heat.  Arrange the clams on the grill rack and place on the grill.  Cook the clams for about 5 to 7 minutes until all clams have opened.

2.  Begin the sauce.  In a large frying pan, heart the oil over moderately low heat.  Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.  Add the wine, thyme and red pepper flakes; bring to a simmer.  Cook until reduced to about 1/3 cup, about 5 minutes.

3.  Continue the sauce.  Add the tomatoes, clam juice and salt.  Raise the heat to moderate and bring to a simmer.  cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 10 minutes.  Add the chopped clams and bring back to a simmer.  Continue simmering until the clams are just done, about 1 minute longer.Stir in the parsley and black pepper.  Taste the sauce for salt, and add more if needed.

4.  Cook the pasta.  Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the linguine until just done, about 12 minutes.  Drain and toss with sauce.