This recipe is taken, with a few changes, from the slim cooking magazine “Primi Piatti, Speciale Pasta Corta.”* Here in Italy they cook with little tiny clams, some not much larger than your thumbnail, so use the smallest clams you can find. With the garlic and hot pepper, and the lack of tomato, this tastes a bit like my absolute favorite pasta, aglio olio, but with a kind of fishy overlay.
for 4 people
12 ounces dried pasta or 16 ounces fresh
1 lb clams
1 lb mussels
8 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 small hot pepper, chopped
some parsley, chopped
salt and pepper
Carefully wash the clams and mussels and clean them very well. Put them in a big pot, cover and cook over medium high heat for 5-6 minutes. They will throw off a lot of liquid; you do not need to cook them in additional water.
Discard any that did not open. If you like, leave half of them in their shells, and set them all aside. (We took them all out because we didn’t want to deal with the shells at the table. However, the plate looks much prettier with some of them still in their shells.) Strain the liquid very well (it may contain sand) and keep it.
Put a big pot of water on to boil for the pasta.
Wipe the pot the bivalves cooked in, and put in the olive oil, the garlic and the hot pepper. Cook until the garlic just begins to turn golden.
Then add the clams, mussels and 3/4 cup of the reserved liquid. Check for flavor and add salt and pepper to taste (we needed neither). Give it a stir and turn it off.
By now the pasta water should be boiling. Don’t forget to salt it! Cook the pasta to the doneness you like. Using tongs, pull the pasta out of the water and add it to the pot with the shellfish, turn the heat up high and let it all get good and hot.
Serve immediately with a nice helping of chopped parsley on top.
* Primi Piatti, Anno III, numero 15, Febbraio, 2003. p. 24