I can still remember the first time I tasted spaghetti vongole*; Cork Daddy and I were on holidays in the Amalfi Coast. Sitting in a little trattoria, not a care in the world and making our way through a carafe of wine, I think we were on to our second (or third) bread basket whilst waiting for our mains.
I’m busting to get back to Italy if only for their bread baskets! Brought out before every meal, the crusty ciabatta dunked in olive oil and balsamic vinegar is one of the most comforting things you’ll ever eat.
I recall the Italian waiter (not the tall, dark, handsome type that you’d find in a steamy romantic comedy but a more short, stocky and older Italian version) approaching our table. He was carrying a giant bowl of steaming hot spaghetti, the pasta strands almost standing up-right it was cooked so “daring-ly al dente” (to quote Rick Stein**). The smell of cooked garlic was so strong that to this day, whenever I walk in to an Italian restaurant I’m transported back to that very moment.
And let me just say, I was blown away. It was pure bliss. I can’t even put my finger on what it is about spaghetti vongole that I like so much. Maybe it’s the chilli? Maybe it’s the fresh seafood? Maybe it’s the garlic? Maybe it’s just the combination of it all thrown in together. I don’t know. It just works so well.
The perfect dish to whip up for a long lunch now that the warmer weather is here, you don’t even have to be close to the beach to recreate this Italian classic. Goolwa Pipi’s from South Australia are cryovac’ed and can be purchased at Woollies, taking next to no time to cook. Alternatively, if you can get you hands on some fresh clams from your fishmonger – do! I get my fresh seafood in Wagga from Anything Fishy (fresh seafood sourced from the Sydney fish markets and sold from the Farmers Home carpark every Thursday and Friday).
It just goes to show that often good food is the simplest. This dish is elegant in it’s simplicity and creates a real sense of occasion. There’s no fancy cooking here and very few ingredients meaning that it’s terrific for the home cook.
Now it doesn’t look like there are any European trips planned for the Corcoran family in the near future so this dish’ll have to do. Eating this is nearly as good as being in that restaurant all those years ago anyway (sort-of). So throw some pipi’s in your shopping basket today and give this a go. Be sure to make a quick stop to the bottle-o on your way home and invite some friends around.
Just whatever you do, don’t forget the bread!
Be sure to check out Lo’s tips below.
spaghetti vongole (serves 2 x adults as a main meal)
200 grams of dried spaghetti, reserving some of the pasta water to loosen up the sauce
4 x small garlic cloves, crushed
2 x anchovy fillets, finely chopped
1 x long red chilli, finely chopped***
400 grams of pipi’s or clams
1/4 glass of white wine****
A good handful of fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
The juice of 1/2 a lemon, plus extra wedges for serving
A good glug of olive oil
- Cook the pasta in a large saucepan of salted, boiling water. (Make sure you keep a close eye on the pasta as you don’t want it to be overcooked).
- Meanwhile, add a good glug of olive oil to a fry pan and cook the garlic, chilli and anchovy for a couple of minutes, being careful not to burn.
- Add the pipi’s to the fry pan, along with the white wine and cook whilst gently shaking the pan for about 3 minutes or until the pipi’s shells have all opened. (They don’t take long to cook, only a couple of minutes).
- Add a heap of fresh parsley to the pan, a good squeeze of lemon juice and using a pair of tongs, add the spaghetti.
- Toss to coat the pasta in the sauce, adding a dash of the pasta water to loosen up the sauce.
- Serve straight away with a drizzle of olive oil and more fresh parsley and chilli sprinkled over the top.
Serve with a glass of cold white wine, some crusty bread and some dressed mixed salad leaves for a delicious long lunch.
- *Spaghetti vongole is an Italian pasta dish meaning spaghetti with clams. Cooked in olive oil, garlic, chilli, parsley and white wine, it is a popular dish in Compania, often including cherry tomatoes in the recipe. I prefer this dish without the tomatoes but you can by all means add some halved cherry tomatoes to the garlic, chilli and anchovy mix before adding the spaghetti.
- **Al dente pasta means that it’s cooked so that the pasta still holds it’s bite and shape. The opposite of over cooked.
- ***A note on chillies – if you have dried chillies and like a bit of heat – use them. Long fresh chillies aren’t as hot. Alternatively, use dried chilli flakes and remember you can always add more when it comes to serving.
- ****Use whatever white wine you like drinking. A crisp white such as a Sauv Blanc or Pinot Grigio works well here.
If you make this spaghetti vongole, please leave your comments below. xx