February 2, 2013

Pasta with Spicy White Clam Sauce

I'm going to apologize in advance for the rather gnarly-colored photo of this dish. I was in a rush to eat it (hungry, dinnertime, delicious, etc.) so I carelessly snapped a picture under the harsh lighting of my kitchen counter.

But it was oh-so-hot and tasty so I am sorry, friends, but the poor picture was worth the rush. I do hope that you make it despite lack of photo appeal. It was incredibly wonderful and amazingly easy. I'm very, very glad that I finally cooked this dish even though the canned clams had been sitting in my pantry for about two years now (don't worry, expiration date was like, 2019 or something!).

While growing up I'd get very excited when my mom would crank open a couple cans of white clam sauce to pour over linguine. There was something very luxurious about the buttery, white-wine-tinged, chewy clam laden sauce that I absolutely adored. I'd beg her for it. And then, just like that, I grew up and never had white clam sauce again. It also may have had something to do with the fact that my husband really does not enjoy dinners with fish in it. I felt unable to recreate my childhood classic out of fear that he'd starve at dinnertime.

Last week, I decided to risk his starvation. It had been far too long! Rather than open a can of sauce I cross-referenced a bunch of different homemade clam sauce recipes. It was too easy to be true, and all the ingredients were right there in my fridge and pantry. It's likely they're also in  yours. Simple canned clams steal the show here, but they are made truly divine with the backdrop of a velvety, savory white sauce.

Oh, and just in time for Valentine's Day, I should probably mention that clams fall under the "food aphrodisiac" category!

Pasta with Spicy White Clam Sauce: serves 4
12 oz. pasta of your choice
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 large white onion, cut into 1" dice
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 t. crushed red pepper (or more to suit taste)
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/8 cup cream or milk
1 t. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 6-oz. cans chopped clams, drained with juice reserved
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup freshly sliced basil
1 t. salt
1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until slightly more firm than al-dente (take about 2 minutes off the box-preparation time listed). Reserve pasta water.

Meanwhile, heat a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and saute' onions, covered, until golden and soft, 8-10 minutes. Push onions to one side of the pan and add the garlic and crushed red pepper. Allow both to bloom in the hot oil, 1 minute, then stir. Add white wine, cream, Worcestershire sauce, and lemon juice. Stir and bring to a rapid simmer. Add the pasta, then the reserved clam juice, and continue to simmer the sauce down a couple of minutes. Add pasta water to boost the sauce if necessary. Add the clams, Parmesan cheese, basil, salt, and black pepper. Stir, and adjust seasonings to taste. Serve immediately.

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