Spaghetti with Clam Sauce
Spaghetti con Sugo di Vongole

serves: serves 6

This is a very flavorful rendition of pasta and clam sauce, a bit more complex than the one Aunt Anna made for me on my first visit to Le Marche. It can also be made with other seafood, such as shrimps or calamari, in place of the clams-just keep in mind the varying cooking times of whatever shellfish you use. If you are not in the mood for seafood, omit it altogether and double the artichokes. And who is to say that you can't do this recipe with chicken breast? Just add slivers of breast meat before the artichokes, cook and stir for a few minutes, then proceed with the basic recipe.

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 plump garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1 cup jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and thinly sliced
¼ teaspoon peperoncino flakes, or to taste
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
½ cup white wine
juice of 1 orange, freshly squeezed (about 1/4 cup)
36 littleneck clams, scrubbed, rinsed, and drained
kosher salt, for the pasta cooking water
1 pound spaghetti
2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped


Pour the olive oil into the saucepan, and set it over medium-high heat. Toss in the garlic slices, and heat and stir for a minute or so, until sizzling. Drop in the artichokes, stir, and season with the peperoncino and oregano. When the artichoke slices are sizzling, pour in the wine and orange juice, and heat to a boil.

Immediately dump in the clams, shake the pan to spread them evenly over the bottom, and put on the cover. Adjust the heat to keep the liquid at a steady simmer, and cook just until the clamshells open, 5 minutes or so. Remove open clams to a colander set in a bowl; cook any tightly closed clams a bit longer, about 3 minutes. When all the clams are out of the pan and draining, turn off the heat (and discard any shellfish that have not opened at all).

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil (6 quarts, with a tablespoon of kosher salt).

Shake the clams in the colander to collect all their juices in the bowl below, and pour this liquid back into the saucepan. Bring the clam juices to a boil over medium-high heat, and reduce to a thin sauce consistency (turn off the heat before it gets thick). Meanwhile, pluck the cooled clam meat from the shells, and chop it finely.

Now cook the spaghetti-if you're in a hurry, it can cook at the same time as you reduce the sauce and shuck and chop the clams. Have the clam cooking sauce barely simmering in the pan, and stir in the chopped clams just before the spaghetti is al dente.

Lift the cooked pasta from the pot, let it drain briefly, drop it into the saucepan, and toss well until all the strands are nicely coated with clam sauce. Sprinkle on the chopped parsley, toss again, and serve the pasta right away in warm bowls.