I’m very excited to share my recipe for BAKED CLAMS OREGANATO with you as it’s really one of my favorite dishes to cook AND eat. Fresh Clams, their essence giving a base to some pasta, the crunch and aromatic flavor of the breadcrumb mixture, the salty brine of the clam meat..a little lemon and parsley, some spice from Peperoncino..this is a dish you will want to make AND eat over and over again. First though you must sit through my usual lecture, please sit down, CLASS is in session. Overkill. Death to any dish, especially a delicate flavored seafood that often gets loaded down with too many breadcrumbs with too much of everything in that mix. Sometimes the clams are chopped for Oreganato, not for me. I want to see that clam, it’s a little jewel of seafood sitting in it’s own serving piece. Fresh clams are key to this dish. I am so fortunate to live in a CLAM region as the Little Neck is harvested right here at the Jersey shore among other wonderful clam beds along the coast. Use nothing bigger than a LITTLE NECK for this dish, it’s the perfect bite size and they are so sweet.
SERVES: 4-5 TIME: 1 HOUR
36 SCRUBBED AND RINSED FRESH LITTLE NECK CLAMS
1 CUP TOASTED PLAIN BREAD CRUMBS (HEAT THE CRUMBS IN A DRY NON STICK PAN ON MEDIUM AND GENTLY SHAKE THEM BACK AND FORTH UNTIL YOU SEE THEM START TO TURN COLOR. AS SOON AS THIS HAS HAPPENED TO MOST OF THE PAN AS YOU KEEP SHAKING REMOVE IMMEDIATELY FROM THE HEAT)
1/8 CUP GRATED PECORINO ROMANO OR PARMIGIANO REGGIANO
3 TABLESPOONS FINELY CHOPPED ITALIAN FLAT LEAVE PARSLEY
1 TSP. DRIED OREGANO THAT YOU RUBBED BETWEEN YOUR HANDS (RELEASES THE OILS IN THE LEAVES)
3 FINELY MINCED CLOVES OF GARLIC
1 1/2 TBS. EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
JUICE OF ONE LEMON
3 TBS. WHITE WINE
PINCH OF PEPERONCINO
FOR THE PASTA
1 LB. SPAGHETTI, OR BUCATINI OR PERCIATELLI, COOKED TILL AL DENTE ACCORDING TO THE PACKAGE DIRECTIONS
4 TBS. OLIVE OIL
EXTRA PEPERONCINO AND PARSLEY
PINCH OF SALT (PREFERABLY SEA SALT)
Let’s start cooking! No Baked Clam dish starts without clams. In a dutch oven add the wine and the cleaned clams. Bring to a boil then reduce to simmer, cover tightly and let them steam for 5 minutes or less, just until they are open. Remove the clam with a slotted spoon to a platter and pry off the top shells.
Reserve all the liquid that the clams gave up to that steaming pot. Strain that liquid through a sieve and reserve. Add a little olive oil to the pan and 1/3 of the garlic, pinch of peperoncino and saute’ the garlic for no more that 2 minutes, Then add the reserved liquid and let this reduce on simmer for about 10 minutes. While this is happening in a bowl add 2tbs. of olive oil, the breadcrumbs, the cheese, parsley, garlic, oregano, 1/2 the lemon juice and mix well until all are loosely combined. Place a bit , maybe a tsp. full of the mixture on top of each clam which you have line up on a baking sheet. When they are all filled reserve some of those crumbs, you should have a small amount left. Drizzle a little White wine and olive oil over the clams. Pre heat your broiler and when it’s reached proper temperature, then place the sheet into the broiler at least 4 inches from the heating element or flame. DON’T MOVE!! Your clams will go from not ready to ready REALLY quickly, like in 2 minutes or less. The clam is partially cooked so don’t fret, and you’ve already toasted the breadcrumbs so 2 minutes should brown them nicely.
While this was all happening you should have been cooking the pasta, just till al dente. Then drain and add to the pot with the reduced clam liquid. Drizzle with olive oil then toss well. Then toss the pasta with the remaining breadcrumb mixture. YEAH!!
Does that not look amazing? Simple. Serve the pasta along with the clams in another platter. Or the pasta on a platter surrounded by the clams, whatever, it’s all going to be spectacular but WAIT…garnish the clams and pasta with more Italian flat leaf parsley, peperoncino and sprinkle that lemon juice all over the top of everything. So important not to only use lemon in the mix, but to finish the dish with the lemon, and ok, a little more extra virgin olive oil. Those fresh tastes will hit your mouth and open it up, enhancing all the subsequent flavors you are eating. Amazing.
Please pass the San Pellegrino, Sparkling please..or the White Wine or even a beer!