Spaghetti alle vongole
|Place of origin||Italy|
|Main ingredients||Spaghetti, clams|
|Cookbook: Spaghetti alle vongole Media: Spaghetti alle vongole|
Spaghetti alle vongole (Italian for spaghetti with clams) is a dish that is very popular throughout Italy, especially its central regions, including Rome and further south in Campania (where it is part of traditional Neapolitan cuisine).
Types of Clams
Palourde, or carpet-shell clams, vongola verace, are used; or the small, Mediterranean Wedge Shell (Donax trunculus), also known as the Tellina or "bean clam". Both types are also called arselle in Liguria and Tuscany. In America small cherrystone clams may be substituted.
Italians prepare this dish two ways: in bianco, i.e., with oil, garlic, parsley, and sometimes a splash of white wine; and in rosso, like the former but with tomatoes and fresh basil, the addition of tomatoes being more frequent in the south. Traditionally, the bivalves are cooked quickly in hot olive oil to which plenty of garlic has been added. The live clams open during cooking, releasing a liquid that serves as the primary flavoring agent. The clams are then added to the firm pasta (spaghetti, linguine, or vermicelli), along with salt, black pepper (or red pepper), and a handful of finely chopped parsley.
In the Liguria region of Italy, east of Genoa, "Spaghetti alle vongole (veraci)" means spaghetti with tiny baby clams in the shell, no more than the size of a thumbnail, with a white wine/garlic sauce. Linguine also may be used for the pasta in preference to spaghetti.
Italian-American recipes sometimes use cream in this dish, but, although cream has the virtue of amalgamating butter and cheese in some over-the-top sauces for fettucine, it is quite alien to the spirit of Italian cooking.
In America cheese is sometimes added to this dish, although Italians believe it overpowers the simple flavors of the clams and of good quality olive oil.
- Gillian Riley, The Oxford Companion to Italian Food (Oxford University Press, 2007), entries for "Palourde", p. 355 and "Wedge Shell", pp. 578–79.
- See Margaret and G. Franco Romagnoli, The New Italian Cooking (Atlantic Monthly Press, 1980), p. 104.
- Info on Spaghetti alle vongole on Italiantourism.com
- Gillian Riley remarks that, "the way cream dumbs down flavor and texture is not appropriate to the subtle flavor and consistency of pasta." See, Gillian Riley's entry on "Cream" in The Oxford Companion to Italian Food, p. 147.
- For a discussion about the Italian dislike of putting cheese on pasta dishes with seafood from an American point of view, see Robert Trachtenberg, "Just Grate", New York Times Magazine, March 30, 2008. Trachtenberg terms the prohibition "a mantra."