linguine with clams and pancetta

We had the very good fortune of spending a week in Barcelona this last spring break. The architecture and the vibe of the city were gorgeous in every way, but what we really remembered, as is usually the case, were the meals – some refined and revelatory, and some just strikingly beautiful in their simplicity. Of course, we had been researching for months, and so when we got a beachfront table at an infamously hard-to-get-into neighborhood hotspot, we went a little overboard with the ordering. Grilled cockles were especially reminiscent of the sea, served simply with a parsley-flecked oil and lemon juice. Well, twelve hours later I had my first case of food poisoning. I am very proud of my iron stomach – it can take the spiciest, greasiest, street food around with no complaints. I guess I was overdue for some humility, but did it really have to be clams? That’s just cruel.
I refuse to be a victim of taste aversion. Despite the boyfriend’s pleas to give it more time, I brought home three pounds of clams and got to work. You gotta make your own destiny, people.

I went in looking for littlenecks, but mahogany clams were on a crazy sale so I happily switched gears. They’re bigger and meatier than littlenecks, but really I just thought they were very pretty. I always get strangely attached to my clams when I bring them home. You have to put them in a nice bowl of water, feed them a bit, then wash them - it's like a temporary, very delicious pet. 

What better way to get over trauma than pancetta? I’m sure you’re sick of seeing it by now, but now you know I wasn’t kidding about always having some on hand. Pork and shellfish are wonderful together – the salty notes of all the spices in the pancetta temper the brininess of the clam juices.   

A quick saute of shallot, garlic and red pepper flakes in the rendered pancetta fat and a splash of white wine before it's time to tumble in the clams. I hope you didn't get too attached.

After a couple of minutes, they open and release a surprising amount of juice which creates a lovely milky broth. Bonus points if you take the pasta out one minute before al dente and let it simmer in the sauce so the pasta itself soaks up that flavor.   

Clams, I forgive you. 

linguine with clams and pancetta - adapted from Mario Batali's Simple Italian Food

serves 4

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 shallot, finely diced

1 1/2-inch thick disc of pancetta, cubed
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes
2 pounds clams (I used three because mahoganies are bigger. Also, I had something to prove.)
1 cup dry white wine
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound linguine
1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped

Let the clams soak for an hour in a big bowl of water with a handful of flour or cornmeal. They'll eat up the cornmeal and spit out sand. Scrub and rinse them.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil; salt the water heavily.

Heat the olive oil until it ripples. Throw in the pancetta, shallot, and garlic over medium heat until the shallot is very soft.

Add the chile flakes, clams, white wine, and butter. Bring to a boil and cook just until the clams have opened, discarding the stubborn ones that remain closed. Take off heat.

Boil linguine until just short of al dente. Drain the pasta and mix it with the broth, allowing it to soak up all those juices in the last minute of cooking. It may still be a little brothy - that's what you want. You and those clams worked hard for that broth.

Add the parsley and serve immediately. 


Mehjabeen Arif said...

wow.. They look scrumptious..

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