CLAMS WITH LINGUINE
by Stefan Gates
(Linguine Alle Vongole)
You can make this recipe with pretty much any type of clam: palourde, telline, littleneck, or even the modest cockle. In Britain and the States, cockles don't get the respect they deserve. Vast amounts are gathered from British sands, tickled out from where they hide, happily filtering plankton from the seawater. They are fabulous, and very cheap—but three-quarters of British cockles are exported to Spain and France, where they are revered. When it comes to eating mollusks, smaller is often better, since smaller mollusks are less chewy. The same holds true for littleneck clams (also known as steamers); when you are choosing littlenecks to eat, look for the small guys, rather than going for the biggest you can find. And don't forget the unassuming cockle when making this recipe.
The experience of eating clams in pasta is a wonderful journey in its own right, as you ferret around for the little shells before gnawing out their precious meat and getting your fingers deliciously flavored for licking. The one thing you need to be really careful about is washing them: cockles can carry a fair amount of sand, and there's nothing quite as annoying as a gritty lunch.
• 18 oz dried linguine or spaghetti
• 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for splashing
• 6 fat garlic cloves, thinly sliced
• 1/2 red chile, deseeded and finely sliced
• a large handful of parsley leaves, finely chopped
• 2¾ lb cockles, or other clams, thoroughly washed
• 2 tablespoons white wine
• salt and freshly ground black pepper
Boil the pasta until just al dente (no more, since it will need to stand for a few minutes while you do the next bit), then drain and return to the pan, toss in a few splashes of olive oil, and cover the pan to keep it warm.
Put a large saucepan over medium heat, add the olive oil, garlic, and chile, and gently fry for 2—3 minutes, until the garlic starts to soften but not so much that it turns brown.
Add the parsley, cockles, wine, salt and pepper, and stir through. Cover the pan; continue to cook for 5-6 minutes, shaking the pan gently, until all the cockles have opened.
Add the drained pasta, stir through, check the seasoning, and serve. You'll need a bowl in which to throw the empty shells, and some napkins for wiping sticky fingers.