Valarie D'Elia recently journeyed to the land of her ancestors in Southern Italy to learn a recipe for spaghetti alle vongole and filed the following report.
Since the land of my Italian ancestors in Southern Italy is closer to the mountains than the mare, residents wait for the fish truck every Thursday as part of the weekly market.
My family usually opts instead for the fish man who drives three hours to the Adriatic Coast to bring back the local catch. For this recipe, enough clams, about four pounds, to make spaghetti alle vongole for eight to 10 people.
First, the clams must sit in cool water so they can spit out the sand inside their shells. The most important ingredient is the best brand of extra virgin Italian olive oil you can buy.
Since our cook, Lucia, bases her measurements on instinct, use your own judgment for all quantities.
To get started, she pours a minimum of one cup of oil in the bottom of the pan. Add a couple of handfuls of chopped parsley and a clove of garlic and sauté on low to medium heat. Don’t overdo it with the cherry tomatoes because you don’t want to turn the sauce red. Then add the clams and a bit of pepper and drizzle some white wine over it.
The clams will open up in about five to 10 minutes. During that time, boil water and add spaghetti or linguine. Lucia insists on salting the pasta water and not adding olive oil to it. She also stirs the pasta while it boils until it is al dente, firm.
Finally, remove most of the clams from the pan and add the pasta. Dish it onto individual plates and top it off with the remaining clams.
This recipe also calls for having at least three generations present in the kitchen.