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The Best Recipe, by Editors of Cook's Illustrated Magazine
You can save money by using large, inexpensive quahogs, which provide plenty of liquid for a briny, brothy dish, for about half the price of littlenecks. Because quahogs are so cheap, discard the steamed meat without guilt and dine on the sweet, tender littlenecks with the pasta.
• 24 littleneck clams (the smaller the better), scrubbed thoroughly
• 6 quahog or chowder clams (the larger the better), scrubbed thoroughly
• 1/2 cup dry white wine
• Pinch cayenne
• 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
• 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
• 1 large or 2 small plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and minced
• 1 pound spaghetti, linguine, or other long-strand pasta
• 3/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
1. Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a large pot for cooking pasta.
2. Bring clams, wine, and cayenne to boil in deep, 10- to 12-inch covered skillet over high heat. Boil, shaking pan occasionally, until littlenecks begin to open, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer littlenecks with slotted spoon to medium bowl; set aside. Re-cover pan and continue cooking quahogs until their liquid is released, about 5 minutes longer. Discard quahogs; strain liquid in pan through paper towel—lined sieve into large measuring cup. Add enough water to make 1 cup; set aside.
3. Heat oil and garlic in cleaned skillet over medium-low heat until garlic turns pale gold, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, raise heat to high and saute until tomatoes soften, about 2 minutes longer. Add littlenecks and cover; cook until all clams open completely, 1 to 2 minutes longer.
4. Meanwhile, add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta to boiling water; cook until al dente, 7 to 9 minutes. Drain pasta; transfer to skillet and toss. Add reserved clam liquid and cook until flavors meld, about 30 seconds. Stir in parsley, adjust seasonings, and serve immediately.
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