What in the world is Spaghetti alle Vongole? It turns out, it is a delicious pasta dish made with clams, and it is a part of traditional Neapolitan cuisine.
There are loads of Neapolitan dishes that are based around fresh seafood, but some stand out amongst the others. Spaghetti alle Vongole (Spaghetti with Clams) is one of these and has found international favor for very good reasons.
In Italy, you usually use fresh “vongole verace” or Mediterranean Wedge shell clams; these are tiny clams about the size of a thumbnail to a quarter. These types of clams aren’t as readily available elsewhere, so any small clam is a good option for substitution.
Small cherrystone clams and littleneck clams are great options that are fairly easily found in much of the United States (and work very well in our experience).
As shellfish, clams can be a little intimidating to cook with; horror stories of food poisoning from spoiled oysters come to mind. Luckily, it’s not hard to be safe if you follow a few simple rules:
If you follow these guidelines, your clams will be fine. If you find that you need to store them overnight, you can, but you need to be a bit more careful.
Put them in the refrigerator in an open container filled with saltwater as putting them in freshwater or airtight containers for an extended period will kill them.
Clams are full of protein and key nutrients and have such a wonderfully briny and sweet flavor that they should be a part of everyone’s culinary experience.
There are two main versions of this dish, known simply as bianco and rosso, or white and red. This refers to the presence of tomatoes in the dish. The dish is delicious either way, but the bianco is the most traditional form, as seen in the recipe below (a note for how to change it to rosso will be at the end of the recipe).
There are also regional variations like the Ligurian addition of diced potatoes. There is a lot of experimenting you can do once you master the basics, and it will probably come out alright as long as you don’t overpower that briny sweetness from the clams, they are the centerpiece of the dish.
Predictably, the Neapolitan white wines like Greco di Tufo and Falanghina are great options as they have a crisp acidity and citrus note that play nicely with the briny flavor of the clams. If you’re looking to go a bit further afield, however, you might find a racy Viognier or Sancerre (mineral-focused Sauvignon Blanc) to be a good choice.
Other Seafood Pasta Dishes:
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