When I was growing up, Friday night dinner was typically “fish night”. One thing that we had every so often was linguine or spaghetti with white clam sauce. The way my Mom made it, there were chopped canned clams, bottled clam juice, garlic and lots of fresh parsley in a brothy sauce, with a touch of white wine. There was also grated “cheese” from a shiny green can.
When I look back on meals from my childhood, it’s as if I was on a completely different planet. Or maybe it’s that my taste and palate has changed so much over time, that the universe that encompassed my food knowledge had expanded beyond its limited horizons.
This variation of spaghetti with clam sauce has the addition of zucchini. At heart, it’s a fairly simple sauce: clams, garlic, anchovy, olive oil, zucchini, Italian parsley. You can add cheese if you like, and if you do, it probably won’t be from a can. Whichever route you go, it’s the perfect meal to start your weekend right.
Spaghetti con Vongole e Zucchine — “Spaghetti with Clams and Zucchini”
2 quarts water
1 tablespoon sea salt, plus extra to taste
4-5 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 oil-packed anchovy fillet
2 dozen cherrystone clams
3 tablespoons + 1/3 cup chopped Italian parsley
1 zucchini, trimmed and diced
1/2 pound dried spaghetti
freshly milled black pepper, to taste
Wash clams well, scrubbing if necessary to remove external grit.
In a large pot, bring the water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon of sea salt.
Meanwhile, in a pot large enough to hold all of the clams, warm the olive oil, along with the garlic, the anchovy fillet, and 3 tablespoons parsley over medium heat. Stir until the oil is well-heated and the garlic begins to turn a pale gold, about 4-5 minutes. Mash the anchovy fillet with the back of a wooden spoon; it will disintegrate to become part of the resulting sauce. Add the clams. If the oil gets too hot and the garlic begins to stick, add a splash of water. To help the clams open faster, cover the pot. Steam, shaking pot occasionally, until most of the clams are open, about 7 to 10 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove clams to a large bowl. When clams are cool enough to handle, shuck them over the bowl, catching every drop of their liquid; discard shells. Discard any clams that do not open. Chop the clam meat coarsely, then set aside.
Drop the pasta into the boiling water. Add the zucchini to the same pot where you cooked the clams in, along with 1-2 more tablespoons olive oil. Sauté the zucchini over medium heat until it begins to turn golden brown, stirring occasionally. Add the clams and the clam juices. Cook until the clams are warmed through, about 2-3 minutes. When the spaghetti is al dente, drain it and add it to the pot with the clams. Continue to cook for 4-5 minutes. Stir in the remaining parsley. Taste for salt and pepper. Serve at once.
Time: About 1 hour, including prep.
This recipe is sized for 2 servings.