Spaghetti with small clams
This dish works well as a starter or a main dish. It should be served in shallow bowls with a crisp white wine.
1 quart (1 liter) live cockles or small clams
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp. butter
1/2 cup white wine
1 tbsp. parsley, finely minced
1/2 lb. (250 g.) spaghetti
2 tsp. olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Clean the cockles or clams by placing them in a large bowl of cold water for 20 minutes. As they breath they will filter out the sand and any impurities.
During this time, get a large pot of salted water going on the stove for your spaghetti. Check the cooking time on the packet — for standard spaghetti it is usually 8 minutes, but if you are using spaghettini or another thinner type of pasta you will need to coordinate its cooking time with the cockles. Peel and mince the garlic with a sharp knife and get the rest of the ingredients ready, as the cockles will cook very quickly. This is also a great time to set the table. (I recommend placing an extra bowl on the table for the empty shells.)
Drain the cockles and have them ready to go beside the stove. Slide your spaghetti into the boiling water and stir to ensure that it is completely immersed. While it is cooking, prepare the cockles. Melt the butter in a large pot over a medium-hot flame. Add the minced garlic and sauté briefly, about 30 seconds. Add the cockles. Add the white wine. Grind in some pepper. Cover tightly. Turn up the heat.
After a couple of minutes, lift the cover and peek inside to see whether the cockles have opened. If they have, turn off the heat immediately. If not, cook a little longer.
When the spaghetti is tender, drain and place in a serving bowl. Do not rinse with cold water – it only serves to chill the pasta. With a ladle, spoon the cockles over the spaghetti. Add the minced parsley. Spoon on a ladleful of the cooking broth. Add 2 tsp. olive oil and stir gently to mix. Serves 2.