Fettuccine col Sugo di Vongole e Zucchine

Fettuccine with Clams and Zucchini

Elsewhere I have mentioned the happy affinity zucchini have for seafood; please see Zucchini Boats Stuffed with Shrimp. It is a discovery that has also been made by Pierino, my chef friend from Amalfi, whose recipe this is. Clams have a pungency, a high flavor generally better suited to spaghetti than to homemade pasta. Once wedded to zucchini, however, they assume a gentle demeanor for which fettuccine are the perfect background.

The zucchini are cooked at first with a soffritto of olive oil, onion, and garlic, then finished with white wine. To complete the sauce they are combined with basil and with the clam meat briefly heated in its own reduced juices. The method is classic, the sauce new.

Ingredients

  • 2 dozen small littleneck clams
  • 1 pound fresh, small, young zucchini, soaked in cold water for 20 minutes
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • Salt
  • Black pepper in a grinder
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 8 fresh basil leaves
  • Fettuccine made with 3 large eggs and about 2 cups flour, as described

Method

  1. Wash the clams in several changes of cold water, rubbing the shells vigorously against one another, or with a stiff brush.
  2. Put the clams in a pot with ½ cup water, cover the pot, and turn on the heat to high. Stir from time to time with a long spoon. The clams are not likely to open all at the same time, so be prepared to remove them the moment they unclench their shells; otherwise they will overcook and become tough.
  3. When all the clams are open and out of the pot, transfer the liquid in the pot to a bowl, pouring it gently so that as much sand as possible will be left behind.
  4. Detach the clam meat from the shells and put it in the bowl to keep it moist until ready to use.
  5. When the zucchini have finished soaking, scrub them in several changes of cold water with your hands or with a stiff brush to dislodge all grit from their skins. Cut off both ends from each zucchini and dice the zucchini into ½-inch cubes.
  6. Choose a sauté pan that can subsequently accommodate all the zucchini without too much overlapping. Put in the oil and chopped onion and turn on the heat to medium. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, without letting the onion become more than lightly colored; then add the garlic.
  7. When the garlic becomes colored a very pale gold, add the diced zucchini and turn up the heat to medium high. Stir frequently, adding salt and liberal grindings of pepper. Add the wine, turning up the heat to high and scraping loose any cooking residues from the bottom of the pan. Cook the zucchini until tender, but firm and compact. Turn off the heat and transfer the cooked zucchini to a small bowl, using a slotted spoon or spatula.
  8. In the bowl containing the clam meat swish each clam gently in its juice to rinse it of any remaining sand, then place it on a cutting board. When there are no clams left in the bowl, filter the juice through a strainer lined with a paper towel or a fine cloth.
  9. Put the juice into the sauté pan and turn on the heat to high. While the juice is reducing, chop the clams into 4 or 5 pieces each and cut the basil leaves into fine strips. When the clam juice has almost completely evaporated, return the zucchini to the pan, add the chopped clams and the basil strips, stir 2 or 3 times, and turn off the heat.
  10. Drop the pasta into a pot of abundant boiling salted water. The moment it is tender but firm to the bite, drain, toss immediately in a warm bowl with the sauce, and serve at once.

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