This classic seafood pasta recipe from Campania is simple to make and bursting with flavour.
Chop the peeled garlic and parsley finely. If using a whole fresh or dried red chili chop finely too. Remove the seeds to make it milder. Be careful not to touch your eyes or mouth after doing this and wash your hands well before continuing to cook.
Wash the clams in cold water and remove any with broken shells. Some kinds of clams need a lot of rinsing if they have sand in them. But you can also filter the liquid after you have precooked them, so don’t worry so much about the sand.
Put a pot of water on to boil for the pasta. When it starts to boil add the pasta. You probably don’t need salt as the clams will already be a little salty.
While the water is boiling for the pasta, put the clams in a deep frying pan and cook covered over a medium to high heat until they have opened. (about 5 minutes)
Allow the clams to cool a little and then remove the meat from most of the clam shells keeping some intact. Discard the empty shells and, if necessary, filter the liquid that the clams have produced. Don't discard it.
Cook the pasta al dente according to the instructions on the packet.
Heat half the olive oil in a frying pan or skillet. Add the garlic and peperoncino. Cook until the garlic starts to soften. Add the clams (with shells and without) with their liquid to the pan and cook for a few minutes. Then, add the white wine and cook further until the alcohol evaporates. Finally, add the parsley and the rest of the olive oil. Continue cooking for another 3-5 minutes and then turn off the heat.
When the pasta is cooked, drain it and add to the pan with the cooked clams. Mix everything together well and serve immediately with another sprinkling of chopped parsley, if required.
With vongole veraci it's usually not necessary to do more than rinse the clams under running water. So we never purge them.
However, some people prefer to purge the clams of sand before cooking them. This involves filling a large bowl with cold water and stirring in enough salt to make it salty like the sea. Adding the clams and letting them stand for 30 minutes. The clams will open and release any sand they have inside. You then need to lift the clams from the water and discard the water. If there is sand in the bottom of the bowl, rinse it out and repeat this process until the clams no longer release sand into the water (usually 2 to 3 purging cycles). Discard any clams that are gaping open and refuse to close when prodded.
This recipe is traditionally served with spaghetti, vermicelli or linguine.
Remember to throw out any clams that don't open during the first phase of cooking them.