Spaghetti with White Clam Sauce

2 02 2010

White clam sauce, it brings back memories of meals out with my grandparents as a child.  I don’t ever remember going to an Italian restaurant when my grandfather DIDN’T have this dish.  There’s something about fresh clams in infused olive oil that just can’t be beat.

I’ve been trying to recreate the flavors of my youth and I have to admit that this one was a bit trying to get right (not that I didn’t enjoy the failures).  The key I think was the discovery of garlic infused olive oil (homemade and easy).  It gave you the essence of the garlic without the actual minced bits overpowering the delicate flavor of the shellfish.

Now to the good stuff!

  • 2 1/2 lb Fresh Clams
  • 2-3 Garlic Cloves
  • 1/4c Olive Oil
  • 1/4c Italian Flat-Leaf Parsley (chopped fine)
  • 1tsp Black Pepper (ground)
  • 1/2c Corn Meal
  • 1/2c White Wine (I prefer a nice Chardonnay)
  • 1 lb Spaghetti
  • 2tbsp Parmesan Cheese (shaved if possible)

First step is cleaning/sorting the fresh clams.  I take a simple kitchen brush over the shells to rid them of any sand, etc.  Check of course that they are all closed, if slightly open knock them on the counter, if they don’t close discard it, it’s dead (dead clams does not equal tasting good).  After exterior cleaning it’s time to clean out the insides of the sand that they have accumulated.  This is a great trick if you haven’t tried it.  Place the cleaned clams in a large bowl filled with cold water and the corn meal about an hour before cooking.  Stir them up to coat them with the corn meal.  Over the hour they will open and filter the corn meal through their systems and in the process, filter out any sand.  Simply rinse them off before the next step.

Cook pasta to as per its directions, drain and place in a warmed bowl.

While you are waiting, slightly crush under a heavy knife the garlic cloves and place in a clean dry pan with the olive oil.  Bring the oil up to temperature (about medium) and cook the garlic until it just begins to turn golden brown.  Remove from heat and remove garlic from the pan.  You have just infused your oil.  It’s that easy!

In a large pot (typically I use my 8qt. stock pot) place the infused oil and about half the parsley and bring up to a high temp.  When hot (but not smoking) add the clams and bring the temp of them up a bit (about 2 minutes).  Add the white wine and pepper and cover.  You should steam them until just open.  Once steaming is complete and they have cooled for a few minutes remove the majority of the clam meat to a bowl, reserving a dozen or so in shell for presentation.  Strain the cooking liquid and return it to the pot over high heat to reduce (about half).

At this point pour the reduced broth over the pasta, add the clams and toss it all together.  Sprinkle the remaining parsley and shaved Parmesan over the top and serve immediately.

Enjoy!

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