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Monday, May 09, 2005

Spaghetti with White Clam Sauce

Breadcrumbs as a thickener for clam sauce? In retrospect it sounded kind of fishy to me too, but that’s what some of the early recipes for "Spaghetti with White Clam Sauce" called for. After one of our testers reported that the texture wasn’t quite right, I tried it myself, and totally agreed. After doing some research for similar, classic versions I realized that the breadcrumb method wasn’t going to cut it. In fact, the traditional version calls for just olive oil and clam juices with no thickener — easy and delicious! You can use some crusty bread to sop up the sauce, and save the cream sauce for the fettuccini alfredo. Here’s the classic we’ve chosen. Let me know your thoughts!

Spaghetti with White Clam Sauce
Serves 4 to 6
There are plenty of variations for this Italian classic, including a quick version made with canned clams and bottled clam juice (see below). One thing all the recipes have in common is a healthy dose of garlic. Serve with plenty of crusty Italian bread.

1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 pounds small hard-shelled clams, such as Manila, mahogany, or littlenecks
1/4 cup olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes, or more to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1 pound spaghetti or linguine
Salt to taste

1. Bring the water and wine to a boil in a large skillet. Add the clams, cover, lower the heat, and simmer until the clams open, about 10 minutes. Remove the clams with a slotted spoon. Strain the liquid through a paper coffee filter. Shuck the clams or leave in the shells.
2. Wipe out the skillet. Add the oil and heat over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, lower the heat, and simmer the garlic until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the clam liquid, 2 tablespoons of the parsley, and the thyme. Simmer over very low heat.
3. Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in a large pot of boiling salted water until just done. Drain well.
4. Add the pasta and clams to the sauce and toss carefully. Toss with the remaining 2 tablespoons parsley and serve immediately.

Variation: Spaghetti with Quick White Clam Sauce. Omit the fresh clams cooked in water and wine. Sauté the garlic as above. Add 2 (8-ounce) bottles clam juice plus the liquid from 2 (7-ounce) cans chopped clams (setting the clams themselves aside). Proceed with the recipe above, adding the canned clams to the pasta in step 4 instead of the freshly cooked clams.

2 Comments:

Blogger Ru said...

Just a comment: before the 1650s or so the concept of a roux like you find in modern french cooking didn't exist. To thicken things cooks used breadcrumbs.

It can still be done, but the key is that you don't want the breadcrumbs overly dried out and almost crunchy (as you might get if you bought dried breadcrumbs). That results in a grainy sauce. Think stale breadcrumbs, not toasted.

Or just leave them out....They aren't actually necessary although they can help the sauce stick to the pasta!

1:21 PM

 
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