This dish is definitely on my list of things worth living for. Isaac Davis (Woody Allen’s character in his film Manhattan), makes his list including amongst other things Louis Armstrongs’ recording of “Potato Head Blues”, Swedish movies, Sentimental Education by Flaubert, the incredible pears by Cézanne and the Crabs at Sam Wo’s. These creamy tagliolini are highly quoted on a similar list of mine. The dish is Napoli originated and has conquered the tastebuds of Italy and the world. Like so many Italian dishes, it’s so simple, but as always it is the quality of the ingredients and the attentive cooking that rule the outcome. You can of course make this pasta dish with normal spaghetti, but fresh egg tagliolini are exalting in the most delicious way the creaminess of the clams and delivering the salty lightly spicy taste of the sauce.
500 g fresh egg tagliolini
800g clams (vongole)
3-4 tbsp dry white wine (can be ommitted)
1 garlic clove
small parsley bouquet
a piece of red pepper (depending on your spicy taste how big. I prefer just to feel a hint of spicy)
extra virgin olive oil as needed
salt to taste
1. Throw away broken or open clams. Wash the clams in salted water in a ceramic or clay bowl (ca. 35g for every liter) and let them lay in it for about 2 hours. The ideal is to reproduce the sea, so if you have the sea nearby, take some sea water home and wash the clams in a bowl with sea water. Cover the bowl with a lid and keep in a cool place. Change the water once or twice. There are those who put a spoon of flour into the water to £feed” the clams, that tend to open and thus clearing out possible sand residue. Put a sieve into the bowl, as the clams should not touch the bottom of the bowl.
2. After having cleaned the clams, dry of the water in the sieve and control them one by one beating each one lightly on a kitchen paper.
3. Heat some extra olive oil in a large pan and pour the clams in. Keep the lid on the pan. Usually they open in a couple of minutes, and when you see them all open, turn off the heat in order to avoid overcooking compromising the delicate shellfish. Make the clams cool down a bit and then control if any of them has remained open, and if so throw the open ones away.
4. Pass the broth through a thin cotton cloth or tight sieve to remove all possible sand left in clams.
5. Soften the pressed garlic and chopped red pepper in the oil on a pan and be careful not to burn it, it should only soften.
6. Bring to boil water for the tagliolini and when it boils, pour in just a little amount of coarse salt other wise you will risk to have a terribly salted dish, as the clams and broth already contain salt. Pour the tagliolini in the boiling water and boil for a couple of minutes. Pull them out when they’re still very “al dente” and sieve them.
7. Pour the broth in into pan with the garlic and red pepper and also the clams and distribute chopped parsley over the pan. Let the sauce thicken a bit and pour in the wine if you like and let it evaporate and then pass the tagliolini quickly in the sauce. In that way it will absorb well the sauce and become very tasty. Serve on hot plates.