Spaghetti con vongole or spaghetti with clams is one of the most typical dishes for Christmas Eve dinner in Italy and happens to be one of the ultimate comfort foods for me. It always reminds me of my dear friend Ashley’s dad, Tommy who would make a big bowl of it when she or any of her girlfriends were feeling a little down. I was so grateful to find that the recipe we use in the US is nearly exact to the actual Italian recipe used here. My amazing husband now makes this meal for me when I need a little comforting after a long day of whatever battle I have faced with the language or a bout of homesickness and of course, on Christmas Eve! Buon Appetito and Happy Holiday from us at Della Pace.
- Kosher salt
- 6 ounces spaghetti
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 2 pounds cockles, Manila clams, or littlenecks scrubbed
- 2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- Bring 3 quarts water to a boil in a 5 quart pot. Season lightly with salt; add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until about 2 minutes before tender. Drain, reserving a cup or so of the pasta water. The reserved pasta water is important in this recipe so don't forget to save it!
- Meanwhile, heat a few big glugs of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, swirling pan often, until just golden. Add red pepper flakes and continue cooking 15 more seconds. (For this part we use a fresh pepper here only because they sell one with the clams when you say you are making this pasta. It works both ways though.) Add wine, then clams; increase heat to high.
- Cover skillet and cook until clams open and release their juices, 3-6 minutes, depending on size of clams. As clams open, use tongs to transfer them to a bowl. We take most of the clams out of their shells at this point and put them back in the bowl only saving about ⅓ in the shells for aesthetic reasons.
- Add 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water to skillet; bring to a boil. Add pasta to pan. Cook over high heat, tossing constantly, until pasta is al dente and has soaked up some of the sauce from the pan. Add clams and any juices from bowl to pan, along with parsley, and toss to combine. (Add more pasta water if sauce seems dry.) Transfer pasta to warm bowls and drizzle with olive oil.