Spaghetti alle vongole is the classic Italian clam dish. Vongole means ‘clam’ in Italian and I use the small South Australian vongole that are closest to Italy’s vongole veraci, but you can use any clams or other bivalve for this dish, including mussels. I first had spaghetti alle vongole al cartoccio at my favourite Amalfi restaurant, Ristorante da Ciccio, and I never tire of the theatre of opening the parcels (‘cartoccio’ in Italian) at the table to release the delicious aromas. Of course you can cook spaghetti alle vongole without the parcel, just stir the pasta in the sauce for a few minutes until it’s al dente, adding a little more cooking water if necessary to keep it moist, then add the clams and stir for 30 seconds longer to heat through. Whichever way you serve it, this recipe is a great example of the Italian use of pasta cooking water emulsified with oil to create a creamy sauce, so be sure to undercook the pasta when you boil it so it can finish cooking in the sauce. See the video below to learn everything you need to know to cook pasta like an Italian Nonna. Serve this recipe as a main course for 4 with a side salad and a starter or dessert.
Serves 6 as a starter
If buying loose vongole (not vac-packed) place them in a large bowl of cool water that’s had 30g salt/litre dissolved in it and set aside in a cool place for a few hours to purge them of any remaining sand or grit. They can be stored like this for hours, even overnight, but don’t refrigerate them as the cold will cause them to ‘clam up’ and they won’t spit out the sand.
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