Spaghetti alle Vongole Real Italian Recipe

by Christopher Atwood

Italy is touched on most sides by the sea. Unlike other countries, no one place lays claim to seaside preeminence in Italy. So, it's not so much the presence (or absence) of seafood that sets Italian regional recipes apart. It's how each area handles the bounty of the sea that makes the difference.  Translation: no matter where you travel to Italy, you need to try a taste of the sea.   

While Venetians steep sardines in vinegar and onions, Sicilians stew them with sun-yellow saffron and sweet raisins. Calabrese cooks  simmer octopus in a spicy tomato sauce but, if you heard up north to Liguria, you'll find the eight-legged critter boiled with potatoes and a spritz of lemon juice.
Spaghetti Vongole Naples
Framed by the glittering Bay of Naples, Napoli (Naples) boasts a populace enamored by the sea -- whether it's juicy cozze (mussels), fresh-fried calamari or the richly-flavored ricci di mare (sea urchins). So, what should a food lover eat when you travel to Naples or the Amalfi Coast in Italy? Spaghetti alle vongole (spaghetti with clams) is a classic Neapolitan pasta -- bursting with bright and briny flavors. 
How can you make authentic spaghetti with clams? Fresh clams -- ideally the vongole veraci variety common near Naples -- are the key to this tasty sauce. Once cooked, the clams open and release their juice; this liquid adds a "salty" complexity to this Italian seafood dish. Spicy red peperoncino also enlivens the mollusks' maritime taste.  Below you'll find our Italian-approved recipe for spaghetti all vongole
* 1.5 - 2lbs of live clams, still in their shells
* 8 oz spaghetti, cooked al dente
* 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
* 1/2 cup of dry white wine
* 2 garlic cloves, sliced thin
* 1 tsp. red pepper flakes (peperoncino)
* 1/4 cup of Italian flat-leaf parsley, rough chopped 
Scrub the clams, removing any sand still on the shells. Place the clams in a bowl and cover with water.  Let the clams sit in the water for 30-40 min.  The clams will expel whatever sand is inside, guaranteeing your meal is not a gritty grind. 
Heat the olive oil in large saute pan over medium-low heat. Add in the sliced garlic, cooking until it begins to sizzle and smell aromatic. Next, stir in the red pepper flakes -- cooking for an additional minute in the oil. At this point, add in the shell-on live clams. Cover with a lid and cook for another 3-4 minutes on medium-low heat.  During this time, the clams should open up and begin releasing their juice.
Meanwhile, cook your spaghetti while the sauce is being prepared. You'll need to time this so the pasta is just-drained when you sauce it. (We don't recommend starting to cook the clams, then, until your pot of water is at a rolling boil).
Spaghetti with Clams
When making this Italian clam sauce, you can either keep the shells or toss them out once opened. (In Naples, this dish is served with the shells). Whatever your preference, be sure not to throw out the briny liquid that the clams release -- it's the key to an authentic-tasting spaghetti alle vongole.
Next, pour in the white wine and chopped parsley -- reducing the mixture over medium heat for another 4-5 minutes. Your pasta should be steaming hot when you finally toss it in the skillet with your clam-garlic-wine sauce. Allow the pasta to "marinate" in the sauce for 1 minute or so before plating -- sprinkling each plate of pasta with a pinch of cracked black pepper and chopped parsley.
Let us know in the comments how your Naples-inspired spaghetti alle vongole taste. Buon appetito! 
For more tips on where to find the best seaside towns to visit in Italy, check out our recent article on Puglia's prettiest beaches.
Puglia's Top 5 Beach Towns
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