Cowbells and Clams

Strozzapreti con Stridoli e Vongole

Stridoli or strigoli are the young shoots of bladder campion (cowbells), a wildflower common in central Italy and the UK. These leaves are a delicious wild herb, bitter with saponin. You can forage for them yourself, or buy them in the markets of the Veneto and Emilia-Romagna. Substitutes, equally delicious in this recipe but different in flavour, could be barba dei frati (monksbeard, occasionally available in shops) or common samphire. A mixture of rocket and chives is tasty, too.

Ingredients

  • 200 g dried strozzapreti
  • a bunch (100 g) stridoli, or monksbeard or samphire, or 15 g chives in 3 cm lengths plus 50 g wild rocket
  • 2 shallots, very finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 40 g butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 400 g manila clams (vongole veraci) or tellines

    Method

    Cut any roots from the stridoli and discard, wash the leaves and set aside. Put the pasta on, and start the sauce at the same time. Gently fry the shallots and garlic with a little salt in the butter and oil over a medium heat until nice and soft – about 6–7 minutes. When these are ready, a few minutes before the strozzapreti, add the clams and cover with a blanket of the leaves. Increase the heat to high – you’ll see some rummaging action in the foliage as the clams start to pop open. When you think they have all done their thing, stir in the leaves to make sure they are fully wilted. Drain and add the pasta, taste for seasoning and serve immediately.