Happy as Clams

Before the quake we had a regular carbonara date with a group of friends. We shared the same row of season tickets for the Thursday night comedy theatre series at San Filippo, a deconsecrated downtown. Afterward we would all walk over to Rita and Massimo’s for carbonara and a few more laughs.

Spaghetti with clams

The theatre is off limits, like most of downtown, although it is trying to keep producing and bringing in shows whenever they can. The same goes for the buildings most of us lived in – and we are spread out from the outskirts of L’Aquila to Pescara. But spaghetti is the ultimate Italian comfort food and friendship can resist even crumbling walls.  But even though it is a chilly winter here on the coast, spaghetti with clams seemed more appropriate. (And other forms of seafood stood in for cabaret.)

There are lots of recipes for spaghetti with white clam sauce. If I was following one, it would always be Marcella Hazan’s. But we usually don’t follow the rules in these nights out. But the basic gist of most ricette is this:

– soak a half pound of small clams in a basin of salty water a few hours before, changing the water every half hour or so to clean them and purge them of sand

– seer a clove or two of sliced garlic in a few big spoons of olive oil in a skillet large enough to host the pasta you’ll be adding.

– add a half cup of white wine and slide in the small clean clams in their shells and simmer covered as you like. Add if you want: diced parsley or diced basil, chopped cherry tomatoes, and/ slices of fresh hot peppers. It’s all up to you. Cover and simmer until the clams open.

– cook the spaghetti al dente, slide the pasta into the skillet with the clams, salt, mix and serve to smiles.

What is this? Spaghetti con le vongole?

Of course there are more precise ways to do this, and you can also shell the clams after cooking for guests that don’t want to spend dinner eating the clams by hand – but that’s at times just what children and raucous dinner guest enjoy. And the constant tinkering of clam shells raining into spare bowls can be as uplifting as a glass of good Prosecco sparkling white wine.

I wonder if this is how we got the saying “happy as a clam”.

We were.

For those of you reading this on Facebook, it was originally published on carbonara.wordpress.com

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