Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Spaghetti Vongole

Just like the seared fillet recipe in the last post, vongole is as simple as can be but is a firm favourite in our flat. When Katie went away recently with work, I asked what she wanted me to make for her return. Her quick reply was “vongole!”, so it had to be just that. I was kind of disappointed at first, as I was thinking of something luxurious and intricate that I would spend the whole day cooking. I thought and thought of ways that I could elevate the simple pasta dish to a higher lever; adding langoustines, lobster, a shellfish sauce etc, but anything that I wanted to do took away from the distinctive clean tastes of sweet clams, dry wine, garlic, chilli and lemon. And not a lot else. Soon I had gone full circle and simply wanted to try and maximise those basic flavours. The fact of the matter is a good vongole on a warm evening is one of the best things that you can eat. It’s one of those dishes that can instantly make you feel like you’re on holiday.

The only extra thing that I did was make the pasta myself. Most of the time I just snip off the top of a packet of dried pasta and the dish is ready in minutes, but I wanted to add that special touch. I have met many people who snub the idea of homemade pasta and think it’s a waste of time, but for me the taste and texture that you can achieve by making it fresh can make even the simplest dishes incredible. And it really doesn’t take that long once you get the hang of it. You can even freeze the dough then simply thaw out and roll!

I like my finished vongole to be quite winey and lemony to taste, so feel free to adjust the levels to your taste.

Serves 2-3 as a main course:

For the sauce:

800g live clams
1.5 glasses dry white wine
2 shallots, very finely chopped
1 red chilli, very finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
4 tbsp flat leaf parsley, very finely chopped
2 lemons, juice only
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

For the pasta:

400g ’00’ grade flour
4 eggs
2 tbsp olive oil
Large pinch of Salt

To make the pasta, combine all of the ingredients in a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Tip out onto a clean surface and knead together for 5-10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic in texture. It should be soft but not sticky. Wrap well with cling film and allow to rest for at least half an hour, preferably longer.

Once rested, unwrap and roll through a pasta machine around 10 times at the widest setting, folding after each pass. This will make the dough much easier to work with. Next pass the dough through the narrower settings, one at a time until the second thinnest (number 5 on a Imperia machine). You should have a long sheet of thin pasta. Cut the sheet to the length that you want the spaghetti to be, then cut using the spaghetti attachment. Flour the cut pasta lightly and lay on a rack, keeping the strands as separate as possible. Set aside until needed.

Fill a large saucepan with water, add a good amount of salt and bring to the boil.

Heat a large frying pan or skillet to a medium temperature and add 2 tbsp of olive oil. Fry the shallot, garlic and chilli for a couple of minutes until softened, seasoning as you go. Turn the heat up slightly, add the white wine and bring to the boil. When the alcohol has burned off tip in the clams and cover the pan with a lid. Shake the pan gently and keep covered until the clams have opened, about 2-3 minutes.

While the clams have been cooking for a minute add your pasta to the saucepan of boiling water. Cook for 1-2 minutes, tasting a strand occasionally to make sure that it is al dente.

You want to try and time it so that the clams and pasta cook at the same time.

Once the clams have opened, transfer the cooked pasta into the pan using some tongs, along with 3 tbsp of the cooking water. Combine well, agitating the pasta to release to gluten and thicken the sauce. Add the juice of one lemon, the parsley, salt and pepper and a good glug of olive oil and combine again. Taste to make sure that there is enough seasoning and lemon.

Spoon into shallow bowls and squeeze some more lemon over the top, along with a drizzle of olive oil and some cracked pepper. Simple as that!


  1. Hey Sam glad you're coming around to the fact that sometimes...well most of the time...simple is best! Let the ingredients speak for themselves! Fads and fashions come and go but great ingredients put together in simple combinations never become passé. The same goes for good drinks!


  2. Very true Jason, although I have to say that the next recipe I have lined up is pretty long winded and just as tasty. All about the balance!