This is one of our staple meals when clams are in season. Right now the tiny ones are available at the market, and they are particularly tender and sweet. I’m not sure exactly what variety of clam they are because TheHusband buys them at the Asian grocery and I don’t think they specify beyond “clams.” But Manila and Littlenecks definitely work well, and the larger ones can be fine too.
We either serve them over pasta (another variation on spaghetti alla vongole), or you can eat them by themselves, with fresh bread on the side. For a complete meal, just add a green salad to finish. The preparation and cooking time together don’t take much more than half an hour (especially if someone else, like TheH, washes the clams while you prep the other ingredients).
20-30 fresh clams, depending on size
4-6 cloves garlic
1/3 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup olive oil
2/3 cup white wine
2/3 cup chicken broth
1 dried red pepper (or 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes)
1 1/2 Tbsp fresh thyme, minced
3 Tbsp Italian parsley, minced
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 medium tomato, peeled and chopped
Scrub the clams to remove any dirt and put them in a large bowl of water.
Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan and add garlic and onion. Sauté over medium heat until the garlic is lightly browned and the onion is transparent and browning at the edges, about 5-7 minutes. Add the thyme and red pepper (break up the whole red pepper if you’re using it) and cook for 2 minutes. Add the white wine and broth and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to a brisk simmer and cook until the liquid is reduced to about half its previous volume, about 5-7 minutes. Add the chopped tomato, cover and simmer for 5 minutes.
Pour the clams into a colander, shake to remove excess water, and add them to the pan. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer until all the clams have opened. This will take anywhere from 5-12 minutes depending on the size. One or two may never open; they should be discarded before serving.
Add the parley and lemon juice and stir carefully to combine. Either pour the mixture over the linguini you’ve cooked while the clams are cooking, or serve with warm fresh bread (and butter if you want it). Be sure to have an extra bowl at the table for the shells.
Serves 2 as a main course, 3-4 as a starter.
You can increase the recipe easily, just make sure you have a pan big enough to hold the clams. They don’t have to be in a single layer but the pan has to be covered.
If you don’t have or don’t like thyme, try oregano or another herb. Basil works too. I like to use an off-dry white wine like a riesling or gruner veltliner, but I’ve made it with sauvignon blanc and other dry whites as well. If you’re a fishatarian, substitute vegetable stock or water for the chicken broth. If you abstain from alcohol, use stock or water in its place (and if you want to retain the tartness wine provides, add a splash of vinegar). Basically, feel free to experiment!