Oh the aroma of Fresh Littleneck Clams simmering in a tomato sauce flavored with garlic, wine, and Peperoncino. It’s the stuff Italian food dreams are made of. Provided you have the right ingredients this is a very simple dish to make in the home kitchen. ItalianAmericans grow up on this dish. We make it for Christmas Eve dinner. We make it for celebrations. We order it out. Clearly there are many ways people cook this dish. Personally I prefer the whole clam method using our local Littleneck clams harvested in the wild off our coast. Not everyone lives at the Jersey Shore or Long Island Shore so it’s not always a practical ingredient. If your local seafood store carries Manila Clams or New Zealand Cockles use them. In fact if you’re trying to cook more like they do in Italy only a live whole small clam will do. The smaller the better. Littlenecks are a bit larger than the clams in Italy but since they are local and fresh they are what I use. Certainly you can use canned if that’s all that’s available. Don’t deprive yourself of a delicious plate of seafood pasta. Like the first Italian immigrants to the USA did, they improvised and in turn created classic we still enjoy and treasure today. If possible look for Italian canned tomatoes as in imported from Italy. My choice is the San Marzano DOP variety. Now let’s get into the kitchen together and create magic for ourselves, family and friends. You can do this!!
Linguine with Red Clam Sauce
For 4 people. Time: 1 hour
3 1/2 dozen fresh small clams like Littleneck, Manila, or New Zealand Cockles. Whole Foods generally carries most of these.
3 tbs olive oil
4 sliced cloves of garlic.
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp. Peperoncino (dried red Chile flakes)
1/8 cup dry white wine
2 28 oz cans of Imported Italian Plum Tomatoes called Pomodori Pelati. My preference is the San Marzano DOP variety.
1 lb Imported Italian Linguine. deCecco is a popular Italian brand sold Nationally.
In a heavy bottomed Dutch oven or large cast iron pan heat the olive oil on medium heat. Add the garlic and season with the salt and Peperoncino. When the garlic does its happy dance and the aroma is amazing add the wine. Let this bubble and cook for about 5 minutes. Empty the tomatoes into a bowl and crush them with your hands or use a food processor. Pour into the garlic and oil. Stir well. Bring to a boil then reduce to medium. Let this cook for 20-25 minutes. Stir frequently. Now add the clams. Then cover. Reduce to a simmer and let them steam in the sauce until they open. Check to see if they have opened after 10 minutes. Stir gently. If some are still close cover and let cook another 5 minutes. While the sauce is cooking cook till just al dente the Linguine in plenty of salted water. Drain. Any unopened clams discard. Add the linguine to the pot and coat well. Cook for 2 minutes. Finito. You should need any more salt to season since the clams add Their briny liquor to the mix. It’s truly a little bit of heaven in you mouth when you taste this. My versionI think is close to the source. No herbs. Tomato. Garlic. Olive oil. Hot spice. And the oceanic wonder of the taste of the clams. In places where fresh clams are impossible to find use a large can of chopped ocean clams or the minced ones but only cook for 5 minutes after adding them. Serve with extra Peperoncino and a drizzle of Olive oil. I load my plate up but always be mindful of your diners. A pinch of it as you add in the sauté gives a nice kick. You can amp your serving up with more but you can’t remove the heat if you’ve loaded it up in the sauté. Buon Appetito!!