pasta and clams

March 15, 2011

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We try to be good this time of year. The sun is back, and after the kick in the pants that is daylights savings, pale and clammy Alaskans start creeping out of our dens. I exaggerate, but it really is a strange season in the north country. It’s still been below zero at night, and all the daylight takes some getting used to. Our winterized skin cringes even as we luxuriate in the radiance.  Skiing at 15 degrees on a bluebird day will give you a good sunburn, especially with the reflection off the snow. Perhaps it’s the quickening of the season, but this is not supposed to be the time of year to be gleefully twirling great gobs of pasta up on your fork. Hell, we’ve been doing that and worse all winter, and many of us are still working off the winter weight – cold, snowy nights that are 20 hours long don’t lead to much restraint at the dinner table. Or after dinner for that matter. But after a long day skiing over rough spring crust, this is a quick and easy way to wind down the evening.

pound of small clams
glass of white wine
3 tbsp olive oil,
1 minced garlic clove,
1 minced chili pepper
1 tbsp chopped parsley.
fat handful of fresh spaghetti or linguine.

Start a large pot of water boiling for the pasta. Check your clams for breaks or bad cracks (throw those away), scrub them with a brush, or at least rub under vigorously running water. If you let them sit in fresh, cool water for an hour or so they’ll expel whatever sand their journey home with you has jostled loose.

Place them gently in a wide saute pan over medium heat and add the glass of wine. If it doesn’t look like enough,add a little more. Cover the pan and wait till you see steam. Give clams a stir or shake, and leave covered for two or three minutes. Tun off the heart and leave the pan covered – the clams should be open by now. Pour the both through a sieve to separate the liquid and solids. Set aside and keep warm, and it’s about time to start the pasta cooking. Fresh pasta doesn’t take long, and the only thing worse than overcooking it is waiting for it.

In the same pan, heat olive oil over medium low heat and add the garlic and chili when it has warmed. Gently saute them for a few minutes and add the broth from the cooked clams. Turn the heat up, but you want it to reduce and thicken a little, but not boil off.

Toss with the pasta, parsley, fresh ground pepper, and clams. Salt if you must. I leave the shells in – they make pretty little wells for slurping or soaking up juice with chunks of hot crusty bread torn right from the loaf.

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