Monday, March 29, 2010

Quick & Cheap Meal: Spaghetti in Clam Sauce

I don't really do seafood. This is not an allergy thing, a mercury thing, or a religious thing, it's just a taste thing. And as a foodie, I consider this a character flaw and an opportunity cost, especially considering I grew up outside Boston, near the coast, and went to Cape Cod every summer. (Many people I know have recoiled in abject horror upon learning this, and I don't blame you if you just did the same.) But! I'm trying to develop my palate, really I am.

So, when The Rob requested for dinner spaghetti with clam sauce, one of the few seafood dishes I grew up eating, and actually know how to make (thanks, Mom!), I decided it was another step in my ongoing Operation: DATES (Develop a Taste for Eating Seafood).

This dish is easy, cheap, relies mostly on pantry/fridge staples you probably have, and takes so little time to throw together that I started writing this after both shopping and prepping everything for dinner because Rob hadn't gotten home from the bar -- I mean, um, work -- yet.

This serves two, but you can double it easily by using a box of pasta and 2 cans of clams, and adding a little more of the other ingredients.

Because this is such a simple dish, you might want to splurge on some really good-quality fresh pasta. (I, however, bought a box at the same 99-cent store where I got flip-flops and a shower curtain last week. Look, it's a recession.) A long, thin kind like spaghetti, linguini or angel hair works best. For two people, you'll want at least 8 ounces or half a typical box.

  • Boil a big old pot of salted water for the pasta. Melt a couple tablespoons each of olive oil and butter in a sauté pan over low heat. Chop a small onion, or half a big one, into a pretty fine dice, and cook that in the melted butter/oil.

  • Mince as much garlic as you like (err on the heavy side, as it's a major part of the flavor, unless you're a wuss) and add that to the pan, stirring to mix.

  • Drain a can of chopped clams into a measuring cup or a bowl. (You don't have to be too thorough, since you're going to add some of the liquid into the sauce anyway.) Toss the clams into the pan.

  • Add about half the reserved clam juice and -- I was going to say optionally, but no, it's really not -- a quarter cup or so of white wine, and turn up the burner heat a bit, to no more than medium.

  • If your pasta water has a ways to go before boiling, turn off the burner under the clam sauce.

  • Once your water is boiling, add the pasta and stir. This should probably come to a boil and cook about 5 minutes.

  • Once the pasta is boiling, turn the sauce burner back on to low and add some grated Parmesan and some chopped fresh parsley. (You want to chop up a whole bunch so you can add a couple chopped tablespoons here and a couple more when the pasta's done.) Stir to mix.

  • When the pasta's done, drain it and throw it in the pan with the sauce. Throw in the rest of the chopped parsley and toss everything together.

    I served this with an arugula-red pepper salad in lemon-mustard dressing (salad dressing entry to come soon), and the rest of the bottle of white wine, which is as unusual a feature of dinner at our place as seafood. The Rob ate two bowls of the pasta, and I myself was pretty pleased with the progress of Operation: DATES.

    1. This is Rob and it was as good as Kitty wrote it. The dish was unbelievable might be better than my mothers and nobody goes against their mother.

    2. I'm gonna make this! But I don't really like parsley - can I substitute?

    3. Sure - one of our goals here at BGC is to encourage people to experiment with substituting and tweaking recipes to suit their tastes. You could try basil or thyme.... let us know what you go with and how it turns out!