A gourmet Italian pasta from chef Lidia Matticchio Bastianich. "Vermicelli with clam sauce is my grandchildren's favourite, and I get no greater enjoyment than watching them slurp down the pasta with the juicy clam sauce. Vermicelli, a type of very thin spaghetti, cooks as quickly as the clams do, so have your ingredients ready and the water boiling when you are ready to start cooking the sauce."
3-1/2 lb. littleneck clams
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt or kosher salt, or to taste, plus salt for the pasta pot
10 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more if needed
10 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1/2 tsp hot red pepper flakes
1 cup fresh or canned plum tomatoes, seeded and sliced in thin strips
4 tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 lb. vermicelli
Step 1: Put the clams in a single layer on a tray or platter, and freeze them for about 1/2 hour. (Slightly frozen clams are easier to open.)
Step 2: Working over a bowl to catch every drop of clam liquid, open the clams with a shucking knife, cut the meat free from both half-shells, and let the meat and liquid fall into the bowl. Reserve 8 of the smaller clams.
Step 3: Collect the clam meat from the bowl and strain the juice through a sieve set over a small bowl or measuring cup. Let the sediment in the clam juice settle, then pour off the clean clam juice from the top into a clean bowl, discarding the sediments.
Step 4: Chop the clams roughly into large pieces.
Step 5: Before starting the sauce, bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta — 4 quarts water with 1 tbsp salt.
Step 6: Pour 1/2 cup of the olive oil into a large skillet, and set over medium-high heat. Scatter in the sliced garlic and the reserved whole clams, heat to sizzling, and sprinkle the hot red pepper flakes over it. Cook another minute, add the sliced tomatoes and the reserved clam liquid, stir, and bring to the boil. Cook for 2-3 minutes, and stir in the chopped clams. Return to a boil, and cook at a bubbling simmer for 3-4 minutes — if the clams release a frothy scum, scoop it off the surface and discard. When the sauce has achieved a nice density, just enough to coat a spoon lightly, lower the heat and season with salt to taste. Stir in the parsley and another 2 tbsp of olive oil.
Step 7: When you add the clam juice, drop the vermicelli in the boiling water. Cook briefly, 2-4 minutes, then lift the pasta from the pot, using a spider or tongs — it will still be quite al dente. Let it drain briefly, and drop it into the simmering sauce. Toss the vermicelli in the sauce for a couple of minutes, until the pasta is cooked through and dressed with the sauce. Serve immediately.
Try another recipe from Lidia Matticchio Bastianich.
Reprinted with permission from Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali's Lidia's Favorite Recipes (2012 Knopf).