Many people prefer linguini with red clam sauce over white clam sauce. Even so, the traditional Italian white clam sauce has to be made, before it can be turned into a red clam sauce!
White clam sauce is not some kind of a cream sauce. Many two bit diners and low end chain restaurants take a can of New England clam chowder and dress it up a little bit, then dump the stuff all over a pile of overcooked pasta and they call it white clam sauce. Oddly enough, some people actually buy that kind of garbage. That is not white clam sauce and it is not something that any restaurant should sell.
White clam sauce is a very well balanced olive oil, clam, clam juice, herb and lemon sauce. In every Italian restaurant that I cooked in, white clam sauce was made a la minute! Seafood of any kind has to be cooked fresh to order to please Italian customers. Many people seem to think French cooking has strict regimented rules. French cooking cannot even be compared to how strict and disciplined traditional Italian cooking is. If you do not know your stuff in an Italian kitchen, then you do not last long and out the door you go!
Clams that are simply stewed in tomato sauce will only taste like clams that are stewed in tomato sauce. Starting with a white clam sauce will create the best tasting red clam sauce that you never had! Either a marinara or a tomato basil sauce can be used to make a great linguini alle vongole rosa.
Salsa di Pomodoro con Basilico Recipe (Tomato Basil Sauce):
This recipe makes 5 to 6 portions of sauce! This sauce is made with the same Italian cooking method that is used to make marinara.
Heat 10 ounces of olive oil in a large sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
Add 5 very finely chopped garlic cloves.
Add 3/4 cup of minced onion.
Cook till the garlic turns a light golden color.
Add a 28oz can of imported Italian plum tomato puree.
Place a 28oz can of imported Italian peeled seeded San Marzano plum tomatoes packed in their own juices into a mixing bowl.
Squeeze and crush the tomatoes in the mixing bowl by hand.
Add the San Marzano plum tomatoes and their own juices to the sauce.
Stir the sauce often as it reaches a simmering temperature.
Pluck the leaves off of 1 small bunch of basil. (About 20 to 25 basil leaves is enough.)
Add the basil leaves to the sauce. (It may seem like a lot of basil but the leaves will wilt into the sauce.)
Add sea salt and black pepper.
When the sauce starts to bubble and simmer, reduce the temperature to low heat.
Stir the olive oil that separates from the tomatoes back into the sauce once every five minutes.
Note: The rule of thumb is to stir a tomato sauce once every five minutes. The olive oil will become part of the sauce after the sauce is done simmering and reducing. Without enough olive oil, a tomato sauce may end up looking like stewed tomatoes instead of glistening perfect Italian tomato sauce.
Simmer the sauce very slowly over low heat for about 1 hour, till the sauce becomes a medium thin tomato sauce consistency.
Set the sauce aside.
Just like a marinara sauce, tomato basil sauce should be reheated to order!
Linguini alle Vongole Rosa:
This recipe makes 1 nice medium size portion for a multi course meal. The recipe can be doubled, if a larger portion is desired as a main course!
Manila, razor, little neck and large neck clams are good choices for making clam sauce. I chose to use some nice looking large neck clams for this recipe.
The steps of making this style of red clam sauce must be done quickly, so the sauce is ready when the pasta finishes cooking! If you cook at an unhurried pace, then wait to start cooking the pasta till about 3 to 4 minutes after the sauce is started.
Thoroughly wash 7 whole fresh large neck clams.
Cook 1 portion of linguini in a pot of boiling water, till it becomes al dente. The sauce can be made while the pasta cooks!
Heat a saute pan over medium heat.
Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
Add 2 cloves of thin sliced garlic.
Saute the garlic, till it turns a golden color.
Add the 7 washed large neck clams.
Add 1/2 cup of Italian dry white wine.
Add 1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice.
Add 1/2 cup of water.
Add sea salt and black pepper.
Add 1 pinch of crushed red pepper.
Add 1 pinch of oregano.
Cover the saute pan with a lid.
Allow the clams to steam for 90 seconds.
Note: As the clams start to open, the clam juices will flow into liquid in the pan. The small amount of water is added only to steam the clams open. The excess liquid will be reduced later in the recipe.
After the clams open and release their juices, use tongs to pick each clam out of the thin sauce, one at a time and shake any liquid on the clams back into the pan. Only remove 6 of the clams from the pan! Leave 1 whole clam and its shell in the pan, so it can be used as a garnish.
Hold each hot clam with a dry towel and shuck the clam meat onto a cutting board.
Chop the clam meat on the cutting board.
Return the chopped clams to the sauce.
Simmer and reduce the sauce, till about 1/2 cup of liquid remains.
Add 1 tablespoon of virgin olive oil.
Add 1 cup of the tomato basil sauce.
Add 3 to 4 pinches of chopped Italian parsley.
Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.
Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
When the linguini becomes cooked al dente, drain the water off of the pasta.
Remove the single whole clam that will be used as a garnish from the sauce and set it aside.
Add the al dente cooked linguini to the sauce in the saute pan.
Toss the sauce and pasta together.
Mound the Linguini alle Vongole Rosa on a plate.
Pour any excess sauce over the pasta.
Place the whole cooked whole clam on top of the pasta as a garnish.
Place 1 small parsley sprig in the open whole clam.
Place a lemon curl on the parsley sprig in the clam shell to finish the garnish.
Sprinkle 1 pinch of chopped Italian parsley over the pasta.
Serve with finely grated parmesan cheese on the side.
Serve with Italian bread or garlic bread on the side.
By cooking the whole clams in the sauce, the clam juices stay in the sauce. The fresh ocean flavor of a fresh clam sauce is very satisfying! After the liquid is reduced, the water evaporates and the rich clam juices remain in the pan. This technique is much better than adding bottled clam juice!
When presenting a pasta alle vongole, using one clam for a garnish shows how fresh the clams are. Customers who are clam sauce fans do appreciate this extra touch!
This style of Linguini alle Vongole Rosa is one of my favorites and it is demanding to make, but the extra effort is worth it. Yum! Ciao Baby! ... Shawna