In Italy, simple, quality ingredients are at the heart of cooking incredibly flavourful dishes. A recipe that champions this style of cooking is MasterChef Finalist Sara Danesin’s favourite, Spaghetti alle Vongole from Naples.
The seafood pasta dish originated in Naples, where it’s known as ‘pasta e vongole’ or, in Neapolitan dialect, ‘vermecielle cu ‘e vongole’. According to MasterChef Finalist and Italian Cookaway Chef Sara Danesin, there are ‘actually three ways to prepare spaghetti alle Vongole, and, as with everything related to food, each faction is a fierce supporter of its own version’. Apparently, the cause of this dispute is tomato: should you use it or not? Some claim Spaghetti alle Vongole should be strictly ‘in bianco’ (no tomato at all); others say they should be dressed in tomato sauce; others still maintain that you should only add a handful of fresh cherry tomatoes. There’s no definitive answer to who’s right.
Whatever way you decide to cook it, if you invest in quality ingredients and follow Sara’s recipe you won’t be disappointed.
- 1kg live clams (palourdes are great)
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 2 tbsp flat leaf parsley
- Chilli flakes
- Small glass of white wine
- 1/2 lemon
- Sea salt
- 10ml Extra virgin olive oil
Place the crushed garlic, chilli flakes and extra virgin olive oil in a flat large pan at high heat and mix well.
When piping hot, pour in the clams, stirring occasionally until they have opened.
Add the white wine and allow another 5 minutes of cooking time, then remove from the heat.
When the clams are cooled pick the molluscs out of the shells and discard almost all the shells, keeping just a handful for garnish.
Keep the clams and shells in the big pan and set aside.
Pour all the cooking liquid in a small pan and reduce by 2/3 on a high heat (this will take approximately 10 minutes).
Don’t worry if the liquid tastes salty as the lemon will counter the saltiness in the final dish.
Add a tbsp of lemon, and 10 ml of extra virgin olive oil.
Reduce the volume of the liquid by half, mix well and emulsify. Remove from the heat and set aside.
In a big pan, boil a large quantity of salted water and cook the Spaghetti (10 min).
Whilst the pasta is cooking, place the reduce liquid in the big pan with the vongole and shells and warm through.
Add the well-drained pasta and stir well. Add the finely chopped parsley and some extra virgin olive oil to taste.
Serve at once.