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Lizette’s Linguine with Clams

Lee Blackwood from United States

Serves
2
Preparation
15 minutes
Cooks in
15 minutes
Country of origin
Italy

During my college semester abroad, I met an Italian nonna on the train in Italy. I told her how surprised I was with Italian food: that the simpler the better, unlike the complex sauces I had been eating in France. She helped me pen the recipe to one of her family’s favorites, Linguine with Clams, but I soon forgot about it once I returned home.
Years later when I was a new bride, one of my friends moved to Italy for her husband’s job. She sent me a box of Italian goodies, including some very special dried linguine – perfect for the Nonna’s recipe! I found the scribbled paper tucked into my little recipe box. I had the fresh herbs on hand, from my garden out back, and ran out to the store for fresh clams. Once home, I suddenly realized I had a problem: my new husband didn’t like seafood of any kind! So I briefly steamed open, then chopped the clams to disguise their appearance, and added them to the herb sauce simmering on the stove while I thought up a plan. Unexpectedly, my husband walked in early from work. He took one whiff of the garlic-scented air, and inquired what was for dinner? As he came close for a hello kiss, he poked his nose over the pan and answered for himself, “Oh, smells good, is that ground veal?”
“Yes,” I replied, darting my eyes away while shoving the trashcan full of clamshells outside into the garage. “An authentic pasta dish from Lizette! We will dine as Italians tonight!”
The soft sweetness of fresh clams, the scent of garlic, basil, parsley, and oregano, and just enough heat from a dried chili pepper was too much for my picky eater to resist, and authentic tasting indeed. As he declared while twirling his last forkful of linguine, “Honey, you can make this anytime!”
After dinner, I immediately wrote up a recipe card: Lizette’s Linguine & Veal, which I still have to this day. My now ex-husband (!) still won’t touch a morsel of fish or seafood. But, we enjoyed that delicious dinner dozens of times over the years, with no one the wiser.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 c olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 4 dozen topneck clams
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes (or to taste)
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 Tablespoons softened butter
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese, with extra reserved for garnish
  • 1/3 lb. dried linguine and salt for cooking water

Method

  • Put large pot with 6 qts water on stove to boil, adding 1 Tablespoon salt.
  • Prepare ingredients: Scrub clams under cold running water and place in colander to drain. Finely dice onion (making approx. ½ cup). Slice garlic paper thin. Rinse herbs and shake to dry. Chop herbs and place in folded paper towel. Set all aside.
  • Heat olive oil in 5 qt brazier pan on medium heat. Add onion and saute until translucent. Add sliced garlic and saute gently just until light golden brown. Remove from heat to prevent further cooking and burning the garlic. (Burned garlic is bitter)
  • Drop linguine in boiling salted water to cook to al dente, approx. 8-10 minutes.
  • Add clams in one layer to pan with onions/garlic. Cover and cook over medium heat approximately 5-7 minutes, just until clams open. Add herbs, chili flakes and wine to pan. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer 2 minutes longer.
  • Remove clams from heat and take clam/shells out and reserve in covered bowl.
  • Add cheese and butter to sauce in pan and whisk to incorporate and thicken sauce slightly. Put back on low heat just to keep warm.
  • Drain pasta, do not rinse. Optional: reserve a few tablespoons of pasta water for the sauce.
  • Add pasta to onion/herb sauce and stir to coat strands thoroughly, adding bit of pasta water if necessary.
  • To serve: Mound pasta on large platter or individual plates. Place open clams around or on top of pasta. Garnish with reserved grated cheese. Mangia!

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