Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Spaghetti with Clam Sauce

A lot of families rely on spaghetti with butter and cheese when there seems to be nothing else in the pantry, but at our house the default is spaghetti with clam sauce. Because of this recipe, we always keep chopped clams on hand as a staple, and we’re rarely without parsley, either in the garden or in the refrigerator.

(serves two parents and two children)

3 6.5-oz cans chopped clams
4 cloves garlic
1 bunch parsley
1 lb dried spaghetti
¼ c olive oil
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tsp (or less) red pepper flakes
Parmesan or Romano cheese (for grating)

1. Bring a large pot of salted pasta water to a boil.

2. Open the cans of clams, retaining the clam juice. Peel and chop the garlic. Trim and chop the parsley.

2. Add the pasta to the boiling water, stirring occasionally to avoid clumping. Cook until nearly but not quite done (limp but still toothy). Drain.

3. Meanwhile, heat a skillet large enough to hold all of the cooked pasta over a medium flame. Add the olive oil. When the oil becomes hot, add the garlic, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Wait a minute for the garlic to cook, then add the clams and their juice. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer.

4. Add the drained pasta and toss to coat. Add the parsley and continue cooking, tossing occasionally, for two minutes so that the pasta can absorbs the sauce and become thoroughly done. Serve with cheese for grating.

• Be sure to use dried pasta rather than fresh, because fresh pasta doesn't have sufficient body to stand up to this cooking method).

• I like my spaghetti with clam sauce to have a little bite, so I use a full teaspoon of red pepper flakes. If you don’t like your food spicy, use half a teaspoon.

• If you're feeling adventurous, try sautéing some finely diced pancetta in the oil before adding the garlic. The robust flavor of the pancetta adds a nice depth to the sauce. (I like to keep a chunk of pancetta in the freezer so that I always have some on hand. It's so fatty that you can cut it without thawing it first.)

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