When a dinner party of 8 is called together at the last minute on a workday afternoon for that same evening, I look to what is always stocked in the cupboard to make a delicious under 30-minute pasta meal that has been passed on in my Sicilian family. Growing up, my mother made this very frequently on weeknights for dinner, and my addition of fresh parsley, white wine, butter and fresh littleneck clams makes a beautiful presentation suitable for guests, while satisfying my childhood nostalgia.
Our Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, garden sets a charming and tranquil setting far away from our chaotic days working in the City. As the weather gets cooler and work gets busier as everyone re-focuses after the summer vacation, it feels almost necessary to take any opportunity to enjoy an impromptu outdoor evening of friends, family and food. Leave work at 6 and pick up two loaves of crusty Italian bread at the corner deli, complete prep by 7, guests arrive at 7:30 and dinner at 8.
INGREDIENTS (for 8 ppl main course)
2 lbs. of Spaghetti
10-12 cloves of fresh garlic, chopped
1/4 cup of Olive Oil (enough to coat the bottom of your pot)
2 cans of chicken broth (14 oz. cans)
1 cup of dry white wine
2 bottles of clam juice (8 fl. oz. bottles)
4 cans of minced or chopped clams (6.5 oz. cans)
1 packed cup of fresh chopped flatleaf Italian parsley
2-3 lbs. of littleneck clams or cockles, if available
pinch of crushed red pepper to taste
2 tablespoons of butter
1-2 tablespoons of flour (for a thicker sauce, use more flour)
salt & pepper to taste
grated parmesan cheese, if desired (pecorino romano)
PREP: Soak fresh clams in water and change the water a few times while prepping to rid the clams of any sand. Rinse parsley at the same time. Chop parsley. Chop garlic.
Boil a large pot of salted water for spaghetti. Cover to help the water boil faster. Once boiling, add spaghetti and cook until al dente about 8-10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
In the meantime, while water for spaghetti is boiling, in another large pot, heat olive oil on medium. Add chopped garlic. Saute for 1-2 minutes. Do not let garlic burn.
Add chicken broth, white wine, 2 jars of clam juice and drained juice from the cans of chopped/minced clams. Reserve actual canned chopped/minced clams for later. Add parsley and crushed red pepper. Increase heat on stove and bring sauce to boil.
If using, add fresh littleneck clams and cover the pot to steam them for 4-5 minutes. Open lid after 3 minutes to see if the clams are opening. After 5 minutes, all of the clams should be opened. If they do not open, then discard them because they are bad. With a large slotted spoon, take out fresh clams in shell and set aside in bowl for later presentation.
Lower heat on stove to medium-high. Add cans of drained chopped clams.
Add butter. Stir in flour and whisk to slightly thicken the sauce.
Taste. Add salt and pepper, if needed.
Turn the heat on stove to low until spaghetti is ready. Both spaghetti and sauce should be done around the same time, and this should take 20 -25 minutes total cooking. Toss spaghetti with clam sauce. Serve in bowls, making sure there is ample broth in each bowl for dunking the bread. Add 3-4 littleneck clams in shell to each bowl.
Serve with Italian bread.
*I also usually serve a salad on the side, too. For this meal, I made a tomato, basil onion salad with olive oil because I had many leftover tomatoes from the garden. I also made a spinach salad with red onions, Valdeon Espana blue cheese, and roasted almonds (broken in half).
Thanks Andrea, and good luck! Readers, give Andrea a thumbs up if you like this recipe!