2009 October: Pasta Primer

Linguine with White Clam SauceI have been making linguine with clam sauce (both the red and white versions) in one fashion or another for many years, so you can well imagine that it is one of my favorites. If fresh manila clams or littleneck clams are not available, you can use chopped or canned clams. The result will not be exactly the same, but they work just fine.

Linguine with White Clam Sauce
Serves 4 (Scale up in direct proportion)
1 cup water
½ cup dry white wine
32 manila or littleneck clams, scrubbed
1 cup bottled clam juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ cup chopped fl at-leaf parsley
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons dried thyme, crumbled
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1 pound linguine

Put the water and the wine in a large pot and bring the liquid to a simmer over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-high. Add the clams to the pot and cover tightly. Steam the clams until the shells open (discard any clams that do not open) about 7-8 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat.

Put a colander lined with 2 layers of fi nemesh cheesecloth onto a large bowl. Pour the clams and the liquid into the colander. This will strain the liquid and get rid of any sand you may have missed in the scrubbing process. Remove the clams to a separate bowl. Put the liquid from the steamed clams into a measuring pitcher. Add enough bottled clam juice to make 2 cups.

Put the olive oil in a saucepan set over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté, stirring, until the garlic is lightly browned. Discard the garlic. Add the clam juice, parsley, red pepper fl akes and thyme to the saucepan. Salt and pepper to taste. Bring the sauce to a gentle simmer.

While the sauce is simmering, cook the linguine in a large pot of boiling, salted water until it is al dente. Drain. Divide the pasta among four heated pasta bowls. Arrange eight of the clams around the pasta in each bowl. Pour an equal amount of sauce over the pasta and the clams. Garnish with extra parsley.

Note: If fresh clams are not available, substitute 2 cups of minced canned clams with juice. You might need to add extra bottled clam juice. While this is a pasta dish, not a soup, there should be a good amount of clam juice surrounding the pasta.

Add the canned clams to the sauce at the very last minute, just to heat them through. Simmering the canned clams in the liquid for too long a time makes them rubbery.

Turning a white clam sauce into a red clam sauce takes but one simple added step. Everything stays pretty much the same. The only change would be to replace half the amount of clam juice (bottled or from the steaming of the clams) with tomato puree or allpurpose ground tomatoes (about one cup). Presto! Linguine with red clam sauce.

Pat Bruno is Pizza Today’s resident chef and a regular contributor. He is the former owner and operator of a prominent Italian cooking school in Chicago and is a food critic for the Chicago Sun-Times.