Pasta with Red Clam Sauce

27 Jul

I had a cioppino last summer that was so tasty and full of seafood, I still daydream about it from time to time. I dig the hell out of a seafood-tomato flavor combination, but cioppino seems like a pretty daunting (and expensive, if you use good seafood) recipe, so I started satisfying the craving with a simple dish that my boys love as much as I do: Clam sauce. Not only that, it’s stupid easy to make from pantry staples, and it’s cheap. This recipe makes four generous servings for around $1 each. Fast food seems so expensive and inadequate after eating a bowl of this stuff.

Pasta with Red Clam Sauce

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

3-6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

1 sweet red chile, chopped (optional)

1 28-oz can petite-dice tomatoes

1 10-oz can whole baby clams -OR- 2 6.5-oz cans chopped clams

1-2 Tablespoons fresh flatleaf parsley or basil, chopped

1 tsp coarse salt

freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 lb dry pasta

Put olive oil in a heavy pot over medium to medium-low heat. Crush and peel garlic while it heats up; cut in half if the cloves are big, then put in the oil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic is lightly browned and fragrant. Add chopped red chile, if using, and cook for 1-2 minutes more.

Add the tomatoes and bring to a low boil; meanwhile, strain clams, reserving the juice in a measuring cup or other narrow container. (If this seems like a superfluous step, bear with me: I hate biting down on the grit or sand you invariably find in clams, and that’s why I don’t just dump the cans directly into the pot. This technique works great.) Rinse the clams well with running water to wash out any sand that might be mixed in with them, then add them to the pot. Then tip the reserved clam juices into the pot, taking care not to disturb the sediment that settled into the bottom of the container while you rinsed the clams. Sand is heavier than water, so it will have sunk to the bottom, making it easy to keep out of your sauce-just toss the dregs down the sink.

Add herbs, salt and pepper to taste. If you’re like me and have low-sodium vegetable bullion cubes, you can add one of those, but it’s not really necessary. Simmer in a covered pot or set in a 350 degree oven to keep hot while you prepare the pasta.

Fill a separate pot with salted water and bring to a boil, then add pasta. Cook for 2-3 minutes less than the directions call for, because the pasta will cook the rest of the way in the slightly soupy clam sauce, which gives the pasta more flavor and an almost silky texture. Drain the not-quite-cooked pasta and stir it into the sauce, then cover the pot and simmer for another 3-5 minutes until the pasta is tender and has absorbed most of the liquid.

Serve with a garnish of fresh basil leaves and fresh grated parmesan, if you have it.


7 Responses to “Pasta with Red Clam Sauce”

  1. Fallah July 27, 2011 at 12:05 pm #

    Hmmm. I love steamed clams and I love pasta, but canned clams always gave me the creeps. I wonder if I can get over my squick-factor to try this, because it sounds like nom nom nom.

    • Bika July 27, 2011 at 2:38 pm #

      You can try different brands to see what’s more appealing to you. Chicken of the Sea brand has more… organic-looking (read: ugly, but actually look like they came out of a shell) clams with a tender texture; Snow’s are very pink, uniform-looking pieces and are more chewy. I haven’t tried other brands yet!

  2. Mom July 27, 2011 at 12:39 pm #

    Nice! I love your basil….I can only dream about it as Oregon has a growing season about 36 hours long. The only thing you forgot was a nice crusty ciabbata fresh from the oven to sop up the juices….another thing I can only dream about…..

    • Itanya Blade July 27, 2011 at 1:59 pm #

      I say we make her cook a lot…

      Mmmm Bika food

    • Bika July 27, 2011 at 2:41 pm #

      I made some crackly-crust bread for this once, from a recipe in a cookook that Claire gave me for my birthday. It was really awesome stuff.

      I think you could try growing SOME basil at your house, just keep it inside when it’s cloudy?

      • Bika July 27, 2011 at 2:41 pm #

        Wait, that makes no sense. Just try growing it anyway, ha!


  1. Recipes and Rhyming Slang « Bika Central - July 27, 2011

    […] in the produce bin, and you can make my “oh shit we need groceries” clam sauce too. Check it out at Seven Deadly […]

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