Spaghetti vongole

Shellfish are one of my favourite ways to eat fresh seafood. Clams, mussels, cockles and oysters seem to hold mouthfuls of the delicious ozone you get from being near a crashing wave and release them only under pressure of heat or the shuckers knife.
It is worth tracking down a good seafood supplier and taking the time to prepare the shellfish yourself – i dread to think how the supermarkets do it on an industrial scale.
Be aware this recipe involves soaking the clams for at least two hours so maybe put them in the fridge to soak before you leave for work.
This dish marries my love of Italian food with the simple tiny clam which seems to inhabit a shell far to large for itself.
There are very few ingredients in the dish which is usually a sign of a classic and this recipe is adapted from one by my friend Felicity Cloake whose wonderful work perfecting the “perfect” example of so many recipes has helped me on many a culinary task.
You can buy her book from Amazon. Perfect: 68 Essential Recipes for Every Cook’s Repertoire


Ingredients – for one serving

Three handfuls of small clams
100g spaghetti (dried)
Two knobs of butter
Splash of good extra virgin olive oil
One clove of garlic, finely chopped
1/4 medium-hot red chilli, finely chopped
Half a glass of dry white wine
tbsp of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Two grates of lemon zest and a spritz of juice


1. Rinse the clams in cold running water, and scrub if necessary, then put them into a large bowl and cover with cold water. Salt generously and leave for a couple of hours, then drain and rinse well to remove any grit or sand.

2. Put the spaghetti into a large pan of salted boiling water and cook for a couple of minutes under the recommended time, until nearly done.

3. Meanwhile, put a knob of butter and the olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat and soften the garlic and chilli.

4. Add the drained clams, and turn up the heat. Pour in the wine, cover and leave for a couple of minutes until most of them have opened. Discard any that are still closed. Add the others to the sauce, picking a few out of their shells for variety.

5. Drain the spaghetti and add to the pan along with the remaining knob of butter. Toss well and leave for a minute, then stir through the chopped parsley, lemon zest and juice, season to taste and serve.