When we first moved to the Central Coast of California from its more southern regions, we discovered a little restaurant on the beach that became our go-to date night spot. Their swordfish was legendary, but they were also well known for their linguini and clams. It was never an easy choice between the swordfish and the linguini, but more often than not, that linguini won out. It wasn't until a few years ago that I thought to make it home. If truth be told, I was a bit averse to the idea of having to kill these clams as part of dinner prep. 😳
But I pretty much realized that if I’m going to eat linguini with clams, they're going to have to die at some point, whether by my hand or another's, so it might as well be there in my kitchen with soft music, nice lighting, and where the last things they smell before their demise are the lovely aromas of garlic, wine and olive oil. It’s a lovely clam death, I think. It’s how I would want to go out. At least, this is what I told myself.
And once my conscience was eased sufficiently, we dined on linguini and clams that was every bit as good as what I had remembered from those meals on the beach at our little spot. One only needs some very fresh clams, bright fresh herbs, a little wine, a little lemon and of course, a good linguini. The simplicity of the dish requires the best ingredients, and if you don’t mind killing a few mollusks, you will be well rewarded. Here's the recipe...
Linguini with Clams
Adapted from Peter Minakas of Kalofagas
Keep your clams on ice in the fridge until you're ready to use them, but never keep them sealed in plastic...they need to breath! I've kept them for 2 days like this, adding ice as needed. Be sure to clean your clams by soaking them in cold water for about an hour before you cook them. The clams will spit out any sand that might be inside.
1 – 2 lbs of fresh clams (about 6 per person)
3/4 lb linguine pasta
1/3 cup of olive oil
1 small red onion, finely diced
5-6 cloves of garlic, well minced
1 tsp. of dried chilli flakes (I used ¼ tsp)
1 cup dry white wine
zest and juice of 1 lemon (no more than 2 tablespoons)
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
Place a large pot of water on your stove-top and bring to a boil. Add a good amount of salt and when the water begins boiling, add your linguine and cook to “al dente” or for about 8-9 minutes. Strain and reserve a cup of pasta water (toss in some olive oil to prevent the pasta from sticking if the linguine is ready before your clams are).
While the pasta cooks, add the olive oil to a large skillet that's been heated over medium heat. Add the diced red onions, garlic and chilli flakes and cook for about 5-6 minutes so that your onions sweat.
Now add the clams and white wine and crank the heat to high. Place the lid on the skillet and cook the clams for about 6-7 minutes or until they all open (discard any that do not).
Strain your pasta and add it into the skillet with the clams, plus the lemon zest and lemon juice and fresh chopped parsley (reserve some parsley for serving). Toss the linguine well to coat it with the sauce. Add some pasta water if sauce looks too dry. Taste for seasonings and add more salt or lemon juice if needed.
Turn the pasta out into a large serving bowl and sprinkle with the reserved parlsey. Drizzle some extra-virgin olive oil and maybe a little extra lemon juice on top and serve.