Make the Best Spaghetti With Clams – Pasta All’Amalfitana
An Amalfi Coast Special
Disclaimer: If you have a shellfish allergy, do not follow this recipe! But you can still enjoy reading the story!
South of Naples, in the charming Campania region of Italy, there is a world-famous road called Amalfi Coast Drive. Stretching a little over thirty miles From Positano to Vietri Sul Mare, the magnificent Amalfi Coast is nothing but breathtaking scenery.
The narrow road bends at various altitudes, from sea level to hundreds of metres up on cliffs. You get the feeling that you hover over the azure abys of the Tyrrhenian Sea, part of the broader Mediterranean. Not an easy drive if you have an issue with heights, but still enthralling!
The region is insanely bright, with picturesque and quirky, picture-perfect towns strewn along in the yellow stone, the most well-known being Positano, Ravello or Amalfi.
Thousands of colourful houses perched upon the rock, church bell towers, chic hotels and restaurant terraces line up the length of the drive. Caves open in the limestone here and there and natural stone arches spring up from the mountain. It is an astonishing mix of natural beauty and human-made enrichment that mesmerizes anyone who visits the area.
I remember an occasion when the tour bus I was on got stopped by a flock of sheep crossing the road. The coastal drive being so narrow, quite harrowing at times, the herd had no choice but to follow the way for a distance of about a hundred meters.
The shepherd, dressed in jeans and printed t-shirt, with headphones over his ears and a wooden stick to guide his flock, stopped for a casual chat with the bus driver. He recounted how often he had to do this.
Italian drivers, famous for their heated temperament, would protest vehemently and exaggeratedly gesticulate their exasperation.
Ma che posso fare io? Anche le povere pecorine devono mangiare! What can I do? The poor sheep must eat as well! The man was calmness personified. The voice of reason spoke through him.
He was right! Rows upon rows of crammed houses covered the slope from sea level to as far high as people were able to carry building materials. The poor animals were aiming for the top of the cliffs for green meadows.
I expect such encounters are frequent. The sheep got used to ignoring people, cars and irritating honking. The shepherd had an opportunity to chat with other humans now and then. As for the tourists, what better occasion to marvel at the scene and take thousands of clips to show back home?
If you’re driving towards Salerno, by now you would have (probably) visited Naples, the ruins of Pompeii or Herculaneum and the stunning island of Capri. Hopefully, you would have stopped in Sorrento for a stroll on the beautiful commercial streets and entered at least one Pasticceria. If any maleficent forces conspired against you to miss the mouth-watering Neapolitan pastries, you still have Salerno to rectify the injustice!
Back on the coastal drive, when you stop for lunch, you’ll notice that seafood is omnipresent. After all, local fishers deliver every morning loads of fresh clams, molluscs, octopus, sea urchins and shrimps that make the delicious plates served in the elegant restaurants along the road.
Not only this is a thriving local industry, but the health benefits of what nature has to offer is an opportunity the Amalfitans moulded into culinary art.
The Italians would eat pasta every day and still consider it a healthy lifestyle. I’ve had my doubts, but what if the western carb neurosis is just a myth in the end?
After all, the Mediterranean diet is considered one of the healthiest around the world. If you want to understand more about it, watch Down to Earth With Zac Efron, you’ll be in for a few surprises.
Even if you have never tried seafood or find it funny to think of weird, other-worldly looking creatures that are not pork, beef or mutton in your plate, you should still give it a try. I am sure it will radically change your perception and level of appreciation.
If I could drive down the Amalfi Coast every day of my life, I would have spaghetti alle vongole each time, exquisite in their simplicity!
Like many other pasta dishes, spaghetti with clams require only a handful of ingredients, yet the result is so delightful that you’ll congratulate yourself for giving it a try! So, give it a try, regardless if you are in a restaurant or your kitchen at home!
What you need for 4-6 portions:
150g prawns (optional)
500g cherry tomatoes
100ml extra virgin olive oil
4-5 tablespoons of white wine (dry)
½ teaspoon chilli flakes
Two garlic cloves (large)
One bunch of parsley
A pinch of sea salt and pepper (freshly ground)
How you make spaghetti with clams:
Rinse the clams thoroughly in cold water. Drain.
Before you start working on the sauce, boil spaghetti in salted water. I prefer it al dente, but there is no exact time to obtain the right texture. The only way is to try them to see if you’ve reached the desired consistency. When you decide the pasta is ready, drain it immediately.
Meantime, in a large saucepan, heat the extra virgin olive oil. Add garlic (sliced), cherry tomatoes (halved), salt, pepper and chilli flakes. Leave it for a minute.
Add the wine. When it starts boiling, add the clams and cover the pan with a lid. Allow to steam for a few minutes, until the shells begin to open.
If you decided to use prawns, now is the moment to add them (make sure you wash them before.) I prefer not to cut the prawns as they shrink at high temperature. Stir for one minute.
Add the spaghetti in the saucepan over the clams and stir well. Turn the hob off and add the parsley (finely chopped). You should never cook the parsley if you want to preserve the aroma.
To enhance the flavour, you can sprinkle a few drops of crude extra virgin olive oil, then serve, preferably with a Pinot Grigio or even a sparkling white. Buon appetito!
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