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Pasta with Clam, Garlic and Herb Sauce
By Charlie Burke

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A couple of years ago I wrote a column with a recipe for classic linguini with
clams which I still use for a quick pasta dinner, but recently, when serving
guests, I’ve modified it, removing the clams from their shells and mixing the
meat with essentially the same ingredients to make a more formal presentation
and to avoid our friends’ having to deal with the shells. I’ve found that I can
cook the clams and prepare the broth-like sauce well ahead and simply mix it
with the hot pasta right in its pot for an easy main course.

The olive oil, garlic and herbs perfectly balance the briny flavor of the clams and
broth, explaining why this combination appears in restaurants and homes all
over Italy. There, it is usually made from small clams from the Mediterranean,
but littleneck or mahogany clams work nearly as well.

There is quite a lot of garlic in this preparation, but it is simmered in olive oil,
removing the harshness, and is essential to this dish. I used our favorite,
Killarney Red, a hard neck variety we grow, but any locally grown garlic will
have a richer, more complex flavor than the supermarket variety.

Do not substitute curly parsley for the more intense Italian flat leaf, which is at
its peak and available at farm stands and farmers markets now. The pasta, as
always in Italy, is as important as the sauce, so use a good quality hard Durham
wheat dry linguini or spaghetti.

Four servings:

36 Littleneck clams, washed and soaked in salted water for 30 minutes
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large head of garlic, cloves peeled and coarsely chopped (at least ¼ cup- more
if using local garlic)
1 large bunch Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Place a heavy bottomed pot over medium-high heat and add 1/4 inch of water
and the clams. Cover and cook until the clams open (time will vary). Remove
opened clams, discarding any that do not open by 10 minutes. Remove the
clams from their shells and chop them into 1/2 inch pieces.

Place the oil and garlic into a small sauce pan and cook over low heat until the
garlic is softened but not browned (5-10 minutes). Remove the pan from the heat

Line a strainer with a paper towel and strain the cooking liquid from the clams.
Put the liquid into a sauce pan and boil over medium heat until it is reduced by
1/3.*

Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add 2 tablespoons of salt once
the water is boiling and cook pasta until it is slightly underdone, 6 – 8 minutes
(less time than on the package).

Reheat the cooking liquid and garlic/oil mixture while the pasta cooks. Add the
clams to the warmed cooking liquid.

Drain the pasta in a colander and return it immediately to the pot over medium
heat. Add the clams and their liquid, the garlic/oil mixture, the parsley and the
pepper flakes. Toss the pasta, mixing it with the clams and liquid as the pasta
finishes cooking. Add a few grinds of black pepper – there should be sufficient
salt from the clams. Serve the pasta immediately in warmed bowls.

Serve the pasta with a garden salad containing heirloom tomatoes, along with
crusty bread and a dry Pinot Grigio for a truly authentic Italian meal.

*The recipe can be prepared ahead to this point and refrigerated.

About the author: An organic farmer and avid cook, writer Charlie Burke is the vice
president of the
New Hampshire Farmer's Market Association, president of the NH Farm
to Restaurant Connection and helps run the Sanbornton (NH) Farmers' Market.  Along
with his wife, Joanne, Charlie grows certified organic herbs, greens and berries at Weather
Hill Farm in Sanbornton, NH.  
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Pasta with Clam, Garlic and Herb Sauce, Photo by Charlie Burke
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