This is an absolute classic of southern Italian cooking, and depends on the careful preparation of really fresh clams for the best result, as well as good- quality pasta. As with all recipes using clams, do make sure that they are as clean as possible before you cook them to avoid an unpleasant muddy taste or a gritty sensation between your teeth. Rinse them in several changes of water until the water runs clear. Many different versions of this traditional dish exist all over the country, but this one is from Campania.
This classic recipe can also be made with a tomato-based sauce, though it does make for a very different kind of dish. Use the same ingredients as here, but shell the clams and add a 400g/14oz can of tomatoes or passata/bottled strained tomatoes to give the sauce a deep, sweet richness.
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