This spaghetti alla vongole dish features an agliata sauce – a fresh and flavorful blend of minced parsley and garlic. The agliata simmers with the clam juice and is tossed with spaghetti for a divine pasta dish.
My mother prepared this dish for special occasions and it was something we all looked forward to. Though I always used a NutriBullet blender to mince the parsley and garlic together, I have such distinct memories of my mother mincing the two together using her mezzaluna (crescent moon) knife, a curved knife with two handles that she rocked back and forth to create a fine consistency of the two. She used this knife and a cutting board almost exclusively for this dish – for every other dish she cut things almost exclusively mezze gli mani – between her hands, chopping garlic directly into the pot between her hands and managing never to cut herself. Regardless, the aroma of parsley and garlic that was released as they were minced into smaller and smaller pieces is a nostalgic one for me. This dish was reserved for Sundays or birthdays or other holidays and tasting this dish hit me with an overwhelming wave of memories.
I couldn’t publish this recipe without my mother’s approval, so immediately after photographing it, I packed up my tupperwares and drove it straight over. “Una meraviglia“, she told me – which loosely translates to “wonderful” but is a higher compliment than that, I can assure you. We love this dish and I hope that you try it and love it too – buon appetito!
Spaghetti alla Vongole | Spaghetti with Clams
- 2 lb littleneck clams, washed
- 1 lb spaghetti
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3-4 cloves garlic
- 1 bunch (3 cups, loosely packed) flat leaf parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Pinch red pepper flakes, to taste
- 2 tablespoons Flat leaf parsley, for garnish
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt generously.
- In a large, covered frying pan add your cleaned clams. Set over medium heat and cook until clams open completely. Remove from heat, uncover and let cool enough to handle.
- Meanwhile, make the agliata – to a blender or food processor, add parsley, garlic, salt, pepper and 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil. Process until everything is minced very finely and resembles a pesto consistency. Set aside.
- Using a blunt knife, remove the clam meat from about 1/2 of the clams, letting the juice fall back into the pan in which they were cooked (we will need this juice) Set the clam meat aside in a bowl, and remove remaining clams into a separate bowl. Set a paper towel over a measuring cup (or use a cheese cloth, if you have one) and slowly and carefully pass the remaining liquid through to remove all the residual dirt from the clams. If necessary, repeat the process one more time. Set juice aside.
- At this point, your water should be boiling – cook the pasta until 2 minutes shy of the box directions.
- While the pasta cooks, set a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the agliata sauce to the pan and cook until the garlic becomes fragrant, stirring frequently, 2-3 minutes. Add the clam juice and stir together. Allow sauce to come to a boil. When the sauce is boiling, add the clam meat removed from shells.
- Remove your al-dente pasta using a mesh sieve or tongs and add to the sauce. Reduce the flame to a low setting and allow the sauce to absorb into the pasta, 2-3 minutes. Taste the pasta to make sure it is done to your liking – if not, add 1/2 cup of pasta water and allow the liquid to absorb.
- Plate the pasta and add the remaining clams. Garnish with chopped parsley. Enjoy immediately.