In Italy this dish is called Spaghetti con vongole. It is a beautiful dish with a delicate flavour that looks very elegant but yet is incredibly quick and simple to prepare. I always keep some frozen clam shells in the freezer in case of unexpected guests or as in this case, the pizzeria was closed. Stuart and I have started playing boules on Tuesday afternoons. Boules is a game associated with old French men, a hot sunny day and red wine or Ricard, an aniseed flavoured drink. Well, we had the hot sunny day but there were no old French men, we were a mixed group of about 16 men and women of all nationalities, Dutch, French, English, Belgium that all belong to a local international group in Le Bugue, and we had no wine or Ricard. Although we did go out for a glass of rosé afterwards to rehydrate. The group has lots of activities throughout the month including walks, concerts, movies, social get togethers, lunches, bridge and Pétanque.
What is La Petanque, you ask?
Pétanque is a form of boules where the goal is to throw metal balls as close as possible to a small wooden ball called a cochonnet (literally “piglet”) or jack, while standing inside a circle with both feet on the ground, on a dirt surface beneath plane trees.
But, I digress. We had planned to eat at our local pizzeria but forgot that it was closed on Tuesday evenings, so we simply headed home. It was well after 8 and we were rather hungry, so dinner needed to be quick and easy. Pasta generally meets those requirements but what sauce to make? Upon opening the freezer, I spotted the small clams =- spaghetti con vongole was going to be it!
450 g / 1 lb dried spaghetti
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried red chilli flakes
1 kg / 2 lbs littleneck or Manila clams, scrubbed clean
1 cup Prosecco or dry white wine
1/2 cup heavy cream (optional)
A handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cook the spaghetti in salted boiling water until al dente, about 8 minutes
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the oil over medium high heat
Add the shallots, garlic and chilli and cook until the shallots are soft and translucent
Add the white wine, salt and pepper and clams
Cover the pan and simmer until all the clams have opened, about 4 to 5 minutes
Discard any that remain closed
Add the cream if using
Drain the pasta and toss it with the clam mixture to coat
Stir in the parsley
Serve immediately with crusty bread to mop up the juices