This is a springtime Manila clam recipe that makes heavy use of fresh green herbs, especially green garlic and spring onions. This clam and pasta recipe works well with Eastern hard-shell clams, too. Be sure to use Littleneck clams if you are doing this in the East.
The goal here is twofold: You want a savory sauce from the pork fat, wine or sherry (both good, but they'll give you different results) and clam broth -- and you want lots of herby things to eat with the pasta and clams.
Do they have to be these herbs? No. Play with this. It's springtime -- have fun!
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
- 3 dozen Manila clams or Littleneck clams, live and in their shells
- 1/2 pound dried penne pasta
- 4 oz. pancetta or thick-cut bacon, cut into chunks
- 2 T. olive oil
- 3 green garlics, including some stalk (use can sub in mature garlic, but use 5 cloves)
- 3 chopped spring onions or scallions
- 2 T. finely chopped parsley
- 1 T. finely chopped dill or fennel fronds
- 1/4 cup dry white wine or fino sherry
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Set a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. It should taste like the sea.
While the pasta water is coming to a boil, chop your green garlic roughly and combine with the chopped green onions.
Heat a large saute pan with a lid over medium heat and add the olive oil. Once it's hot, about 2-3 minutes, add the chunks of pancetta or bacon and cook slowly until they are getting crispy, but not quite done.
At that point, add the chopped garlic and onion and stir well to combine. Cook for 3-4 minutes. Sprinkle a little salt over everything.
Right now your pasta water should be boiling. Once it is, add the pasta; I like penne, which makes an otherwise light meal a little more substantial. You could use any dried pasta, however. Do not use filled pastas and do not use fresh pastas, though -- fresh pasta will be too soft to stand up to clams in their shells.
Once the pasta is cooking well, turn the heat up to medium-high in your saute pan and add the white wine or sherry, half the parsley and half the dill -- then all the clams. Shake the pan around to combine things, then cover it closely. When you see the wine boil, turn the heat down to medium-low.
Peek into the saute pan after 5 minutes: Once the clams are all opened up (or at least most of them), turn the heat off and cover the pan until the pasta is ready.
When the pasta is done, add it to the clam sauce and toss everything to combine. Sometimes it helps to pour everything into a really large bowl and mix things that way. Add the rest of the parsley and dill and serve with ground pepper over it all.
I like an austere chenin blanc with this dish, but a quality pilsner beer would be good, too, as would a cheap (but fun) Portuguese vinho verde.
NOTE: Any clams that failed to open during the cooking process must be thrown away. It is usually a sign that they were dead when you got them -- don't eat them.