Pasta Alle Vongole

This is a truly delicious and simple starter, one that will only take a few minutes to prepare. The dish comes with two challenges: you need fresh, excellent vongole and you need to resist the temptation to add shallot, tomato, chilli, wine, lemon or butter.

Hey, we can hear you thinking, no wine? Indeed, no wine. We’re not fan of the acidity that comes with the wine plus we don’t want too much liquid. Basically we’re happy with the liquid as provided by the vongole. The idea is to steam the vongole in their own juices. This requires closely monitoring the cooking process. Next time you prepare Pasta Alle Vongole, please try to forget the wine.

Another ingredient to forget: salt. No need to cook the pasta with salt because the vongole will bring enough saltiness.

Obviously the vongole need to be clean, meaning without sand. Sometimes we’re lucky and our fishmonger offers washed vongole. If not lucky, we wash the vongole a few times with salted water.

Wine Pairing

Enjoy this classic Italian dish with a Soave: a beautiful, dry, crisp white wine from Italy. We opened a bottle of Cuvée XX, Soave Classico DOC, produced by Guerrieri Rizzardi. It proved to be ideal with the clams: refreshing and dry with floral and mineral notes.

What You Need

  • 500 grams of super fresh, washed Vongole
  • 2 Gloves of Garlic
  • Parsley
  • Spaghetti
  • Olive Oil
  • Black Pepper

What You Do

Make sure you have everything ready: crushed garlic, chopped parsley, a pan with boiling water, a heavy pan (warm through and through), two warm plates. Discard vongole that are broken or damaged. Ready? Cook the pasta as mentioned on the package. Increase heat, add a generous amount of olive oil to the heavy pan, add garlic, count 30 seconds, add vongole, close the pan and cook the vongole for 3-5 minutes in total. After 1 minute (so 2-4 minutes to go) check if all is okay. If too dry, then add extra olive oil or a splash of water. When clams have opened, drain the pasta, remove the pan with the vongole from the heat, add pasta, chopped parsley and black pepper, mix and serve on two warm plates. You could remove some, but not all, of the shells to make eating the dish a bit more elegant, although it’s fun eating the vongole with your hands. Discard shells that have not opened.
PS Some recipes suggest cooking the vongole, preparing a sauce and then reheating the vongole with the pasta. If you do, the poor vongole will become rubbery, so not a good idea.

Monkfish Spanish Style

Rape a la Marinera

In October 2016 Jamie Oliver was criticised for making paella the wrong way. He dared adding chorizo to one of the most Spanish dishes ever. Paella should be made with rabbit, snails, chicken, beans, saffron and rice. How dare he insult all of Spain by adding chorizo to his Paella? Naked chef or not, ambassador of healthy food or not, no one touches Paella.

Rape a la Marinera is among our favourites because it’s all about monkfish, which is such a tasty fish. The monkfish is presented with a generous tomato sauce, large shrimps, vongole and bread. What better way to enjoy life!

In this recipe we will probably do a few things very wrong, but never mind, simply don’t tell your Spanish friends.

Wine Pairing

We very much enjoyed a glass of Spanish Verdejo. In our case a bottle of Monteabellon Rueda. In general wines made from the Verdejo grape combine very well with fish. The wine comes with the right acidity, giving freshness to the wine. It has floral aromas typical for the Verdejo grape. You may recognize the aromas of banana and exotic fruit.

What You Need

  • Monkfish
  • Olive Oil
  • Optional
    • Bay Leaf
    • Saffron
  • 4 Large Shrimps
  • Vongole (clams, Vongola Veraci)
  • White wine
  • Bouquet Garni

What You Do

The day before serving Rape a la Marinera make the tomato sauce.
Start by cleaning the monkfish and remove the skin where necessary. Clean the shrimps by removing the intestinal tract. Leave the head and the tail. Check the vongole and discard ones that are broken. In general vongole don’t need much cleaning. Vongola Verace are tasty, slightly sweet and juicy; great for Spaghetti Vongole and Rape a la Marinera.

In a large skillet fry the monkfish. When coloured add the sauce. Gently heat the sauce and cover the fish with it. Baste (arroser) and continue to do so. In parallel add some wine to a pan with a bouquet garni and let gently cook for 5 minutes.
Now it’s about timing! Add the raw shrimps to the pan with the monkfish, cover the shrimps with the sauce, continue basting both the fish and the shrimps. Add the vongole to the pan with the white wine. Cook quickly until open. Add some of the cooking juices of the vongole to the tomato sauce, mix, taste and add a touch of pepper. Serve the vongole on top of the monkfish and shrimps.
Serve with crusted bread.