This is a classic dish of spaghetti dressed with clams steamed in white wine, seasoned with garlic and red pepper flakes.
Traditionally, this dish is made with small clams (about the size of an adult fingernail), served in the shell. Any variety of small clam, such as New Zealand cockles or Manila clams, will work; the latter are particularly nice because they are plump.
The best method for cleaning clams is to soak them in cold, salted (sea-like) water for up to an hour so that they expel any grit.
- 30 Manila or other variety of small clams (about 2 1/2 pounds), scrubbed and soaked
- Coarse salt, to taste
- 2 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, sliced crosswise into very thin rounds
- Pinch of red chile pepper flakes
- 5 Ounces spaghetti
- 1/4 Cup plus 2 teaspoons dry white wine
- 1 Tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
Place the clams in a bowl and add salted water to cover. Let stand for 10 minutes or up to 1 hour to allow the clams to expel any sand and grit contained in the shells. Lift the clams out of the water, leaving the sand in the bowl, and set aside.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.
Combine the oil and garlic in a saucepan over low heat and cook to warm the garlic and infuse the oil. Do not allow the garlic to take on color. After 1-2 minutes, add the red chile pepper flakes.
Add the spaghetti to the boiling water and cook for 5 minutes. Drain, reserving about 2 cups of the pasta cooking water.
Add the clams, wine, and pinch of salt to the pan with the garlic. Cover the pan and cook, shaking gently every now and then, just until the clams open, 1-2 minutes. Remove the clams to a bowl and set aside.
Add the spaghetti to the saucepan, adding a little of the pasta cooking water to emulsify. Continue cooking until the spaghetti is tender but al dente, about 3 more minutes. Stir in the parsley and add the clams back to the pan to rewarm in the sauce. (The pasta should not be soupy but some emulsified sauce will pool on the plate.) Taste and adjust the seasonings.