Saturday, July 23, 2011

Clam Standard

Clams are the perfect dinner when you need something that feels like you went to a lot of trouble, something satisfying, hearty and elegant all at once. Something that feels special but cooks up quickly with minimum effort. We love clams.
Tonight, based on a recipe from Food and Wine magazine, I started a pan with 1/3 cup of olive oil heating and added in 2 larges cloves of garlic, chopped. After just 30 seconds, I added in about 1 1/2 cups of chopped tomatoes (nothing fancy, no peeling or seeding, just plain chopped) and let them simmer in the hot oil until softened up, about 3 minutes. Next I added in 1/2 cup of white wine and 1 cup of water and brought the liquid to a boil. I stirred in 1/2 cup of fregola, covered the pan and reduced the heat, allowing the pasta to simmer. When the fregola had cooked for around 18 minutes I added about 2 lbs of manilla clams to the pot, covered and cooked over medium high heat for another 5-6 minutes untill all the clams had opened. I stirred in some chopped parsley just before serving the clams, broth and pasta drizzled with olive oil.
Fregola are a hand rolled pasta specialty of the Italian island of Sardinia. The little pebbles of dough are toasted which gives the pasta a deep, almost nutty flavor. They are often cooked like a risotto or served in broth. Despite the miles of stunning coast in Sardinia little of their traditional foods are gathered from the sea. The island diet still recalls it's shepherding past (and present) with lamb and greens and delicious sheep's milk cheeses. I don't know if the clams in this dish would be served on the rocky island but the dish is simple and delicious enough to warrant a break with tradition.

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