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Linguine with Manila Clams

The best clams for this pasta are Manila or littlenecks. Choose the smallest ones you can find, as they are the most tender. Tiny New Zealand cockles, now widely available in many fish markets, are another excellent choice, though they result in a more delicately flavored sauce.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lb. Manila or other small clams or cockles, scrubbed 
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine 
  • 2 Tbs. sea salt, plus more, to taste 
  • 1 lb. linguine or spaghetti 
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced 
  • Juice of 1 lemon 
  • Generous pinch of red pepper flakes 
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste 
  • Large handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, coarsely chopped 

Directions:

Bring a large pot three-fourths full of water to a rolling boil.

Meanwhile, put the clams in a separate large saucepan or pot, discarding any that do not close to the touch. Pour in the wine, place over medium-high heat and cook, stirring the clams occasionally, until they start to open, 2 to 3 minutes. Pull each clam from the pot as it opens and place in a large bowl (some take longer than others; if you leave them all in the pot, the early openers will be overcooked). Discard any clams that fail to open. Strain the clam broth through a paper coffee filter or a fine-mesh sieve lined with dampened cheesecloth into a bowl and set aside.

When the water is boiling, add the 2 Tbs. salt. Add the linguine, stir well and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, according to the package instructions.

Meanwhile, in a large fry pan over medium-low heat, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic and sauté until lightly golden, about 30 seconds. Add the reserved clam broth and the lemon juice and simmer over low heat until slightly reduced, about 4 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes and black pepper. Taste and adjust the seasoning with a pinch of salt, if necessary.

Drain the linguine well and add it to the sauce in the pan. Add the clams in their shells and any juices that have accumulated. Stir and toss well over low heat for about 1 minute to coat the pasta. Transfer to a warmed serving bowl, add the parsley and toss gently. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Italian by Michele Scicolone (Oxmoor House, 2007).