Whether you go clamming in the surf or at the fish market, this is the perfect recipe.
¾cup best-quality olive oil
6garlic cloves, peeled and minced
4 dozen small clams, such as Littlenecks or Cherrystones, scrubbed, shucked, and chopped coarsely, all liquor reserved
About 2cups bottled clam juice
½cup finely chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
24fresh clams, in their shells, for garnish (optional)
Heat the olive oil in a deep heavy pot over low heat. Add the garlic and cook until golden, about 5 minutes.
Combine the reserved clam liquor and enough bottled clam juice to make 3 cups. Add this to the pot along with the parsley, oregano, and salt and pepper. Simmer, partially covered, for 10 minutes. The sauce may be prepared ahead to this point.
Meanwhile, scrub the garnishing clams, if you are using them, and put them in another pan with water to a depth of 1 inch. Cover, and set the pan over high heat. Shake the pan or stir the clams and remove them as they open. Reserve them in their shells. Discard any clams that don’t open.
Bring 4 quarts salted water to a boil in a large pot. Drop in the linguine and cook until tender but still firm.
Meanwhile, reheat the sauce if you have allowed it to cool. Add the chopped clams and heat gently; clams should not over-cook or they will become tough.
Drain the linguine and toss it with the sauce. Serve it in the pot, topped by the clam garnish, or transfer to individual wide soup bowls and garnish each serving with the clams in their shells.