This is the quintessential Italian pasta dish, especially in Naples and Rome. The clams are the smaller ones — vongole veraci — and they are always cooked in their shells. Once they open, the sauce is done. Here in the States, linguine with clam sauce is made with chopped clams, and I guess this adjustment makes sense, especially since the clams here can be quite large, from littlenecks (small to medium) to topnecks (large) to quahogs or chowder clams (very large). Today, thought, one is ever more likely to find smaller cockles on the market; if you find them, by all means use them.
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves, sliced
4 anchovies, sliced
36 littleneck clams, scrubbed
1/4 teaspoon peperoncino
1/4 teaspoon dry oregano
1 pound linguine
3/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
Bring a large pot of water to boil for pasta. In a large straight-sided skillet, heat 4 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add sliced garlic and cook until sizzling, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add anchovies and stir until the anchovies break up and dissolve into the oil, about 2 minutes.
Add the clams to the skillet, along with the peperoncino and oregano. Ladle in about 2 cups pasta water. Bring to a simmer and cover until clams open, about 5 to 7 minutes. As the clams open, remove to a bowl. Meanwhile, add linguine to pasta water. When all the clams are out, increase heat to high and add 1/2 cup of the parsley. Cook until reduce by half. Meanwhile, shuck the clams.
When the linguine is al dente and the sauce is reduced, add the pasta directly to the sauce and drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Cook and toss until the pasta is coated with the sauce. Add shucked clams and remaining 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, Cook a minute more to blend the flavors and serve.
Linguini with red clam sauce is almost never found in Italy, but a big seller in Italian American restaurants here in the United States. So when you go to Italy, eat it as they do with white clam sauce and never ever ask for cheese to put on your linguini clam sauce.
From Lidia's Italy in America by Lidia Bastianich (Knopf 2011). All rights reserved. Used with permission of the publisher.
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