Well, it was a great holiday, spent with wonderful friends in beautiful houses, looking at stunning scenery and eating delicious food. What more can an old lady wish for? A perfect last supper, which is what I got when Bea prepared spaghetti alle vongole, one of my all time favourite pasta dishes. And she gave me the recipe which I transcribe below as she wrote it in Italian though you may not need it as making the sauce couldn’t be simpler. All you need is fresh clams, a little chopped parsley, extra virgin olive oil, a couple of cloves of garlic, one dried chilli, half a lemon, a little white wine and some sea salt.
Bea explained that it was a good idea to let the clams soak in sea water all afternoon so that they release whatever impurities and sand they have in them. I did see them open and close during that time, making bubbles every time they did but whether they released anything, I am not sure. Anyhow, this is a moot point in London as I don’t quite see from where I would get a bucket of sea water the way Bea got hers from the sea just below the kitchen! When she decided the clams were clean enough, she drained and rinsed them then put them in a pan which she placed over a medium heat. She covered the pan and within a few minutes the clams had opened.
She then made a quick soffrito in another pan, frying chopped parsley, the whole garlic cloves and chilli pepper in a little olive oil adding the lemon juice and white wine at the very end. Once the soffrito was done, she lined a colander with a cotton napkin and asked her lovely daughter Asia to hold it over the pan with the soffrito so that she could pour the clams into it and collect the juices without any of the sand.
Bea returned the pan with the clams juice to the heat and let the sauce bubble for a few minutes then proceeded to discard the empty shells and dropped the clams on the half shell into the sauce.
She covered the pan and set the clams aside until about half an hour before it was time for us to have our pasta, when she filled a saucepan with water which she put to boil. As the water came to the boil, she added salt then the spaghetti (she stressed the importance of choosing a good brand like De Cecco or better for the perfect texture), which she cooked just one minute short of it being perfectly al dente because she was going to add the pasta to the vongole sauce to finish cooking it.
And here is our delicious bowl of spaghetti alle vongole in bianco (meaning white, ie. without tomatoes), garnished with more chopped parsley. I drizzled a little more olive oil as I like the taste of fresh oil on my pasta.
And above is lovely Bea with her gorgeous child, Asia, while below is a picture of my view as I ate my pasta. The sunset was not so dramatic that evening because the sky was fairly clear but it was still pretty gorgeous, and having our meals every day on the terrace overlooking the sea was just heavenly!
Spaghetti alle Vongole in Bianco
1.5 kg vongole
2 spicchi d’aglio
l punta di un peperoncino
6 cucchiai di olio extravergine d’oliva
1 mazzetto di prezzemolo, trittato
mezzo succo di limone
vino bianco per sfumare
350 g spaghetti
Mettere le vongole a spurgare (possibilmente con acqau di mare) circa 7-8 ore, dope metterle in un recipiente sul fuoco a farle aprire. Quando si sono aperte, filtrare con una garza oppure con un canovaccio e conservare il liquido di cottura. Nel frattempo, soffriggere aglio, peperoncino, olio, prezzemolo, succo di limone, vino bianco e il liquido conservato delle vongole. Farlo cuocere per circa 5 minuti e infine aggiungere le vongole.
Quando la pasta e quasi pronta, scolarla e finirla di cuocere nella pentola delle vongole. Se dovesse rimanere asciutta, aggiungere un po’ de acua di cottura della pasta.
Metterla in un vassoio e cospargerla di prezzemolo fresco.
Recipe ©Beatrice Zucchelli