To clam or not to clam?
Last time we visited Venice, we practically lived on pasta vongole for 5 days.
Everywhere you looked, pasta vongole spaghetti and clams was on the menu.
What a treat!
Do you like pasta vongole?
Where is pasta vongole from?
Well not surprisingly, Italy of course!
More specifically from Naples.
Pasta vongole is very popular in the entire surrounding Campania region.
The first recorded recipe for pasta vongole dates back to 1839, can you believe that!
It appeared in a cookbook named Cucina Teorico-pratica, by Ippolito Cavalcanti who was the Duke of Buonvicino. His old recipe mentions five ingredients: pasta of course, and olive oil, garlic, parsley and fresh clams.
Ippolito’s recipe is an example of the classic pasta vongole ‘in bianco’, however Italians also like to prepare this pasta dish with tomatoes which is called pasta vongole ‘in rosso’.
What is the difference between clams and vongole? Are vongole clams?
Vongole is just the Italian name for clams.
In Australia clams are most commonly known as pipis.
The main ingredient for a classic pasta vongole is a clam by the name of ‘vongola verace’, also known as the cross-cut carpet shell clam.
You can find this ridged shell clam both farmed and wild in Italy.
Is vongole healthy?
Clams are high in vitamins and minerals and provide a good source of vitamin B12, selenium, iron, vitamin C, phosphorus and copper.
Can I soak clams overnight? Should I soak clams in salt water?
Do you need to clean vongole?
Soaking clams is highly recommended.
And what is even more recommended is to soak them in saltwater because it mimics sea water, the clams’ natural habitat.
Why soak them?
Once a clam feels at home again, it will start to clean itself, purge and spit out sand that is trapped inside its shell. So you will find a layer of sand at the bottom of the bowl after a while.
Soaking clams means no sandy clams in your pasta vongole!
How long soak clams before cooking?
At room temperature or in the fridge? And for how long?
When we make pasta vongole, we soak the clams right away and put the bowl in the fridge – even overnight is absolutely fine. An hour before we plan to cook them, we take the bowl out of the fridge again and let it it at room temperature.
Do you want to prepare your pasta vongole right away?
Half an hour to one hour is also enough for the clams to start purging.
What wine goes with pasta vongole?
Clams have a very subtle shellfish flavor.
Add to that olive oil, garlic and parsley and you are definitely in need of a nice dry white wine.
We recommend a dry white wine with loads of minerality and a hint of earthiness. That is the only wine that matches perfectly with pasta vongole. So, no chardonnay, no pinot grigio, but a pure sauvignon blanc or an italian lugana.
How many clams do you need per person?
That depends on how much you love pasta vongole!
A good ratio for pasta vongole is ½ lb (225 g) of clams per person.
Clams are usually sold in portions of 1 lb (450 g) and 2 lbs (900 g).
But again, if you love clams, just add more.
Who is going to stop you?
Ingredients for 2 persons
- 7 oz (200 g) dry spaghetti
- 1 lb (450 g) fresh vongole clams, purged, rinsed and drained
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large garlic clove, sliced
- ¼ cup (60 ml) dry white wine
- a handful fresh flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
- Fill a large pot with water, add a good drizzle of salt and bring it to a boil over high heat.
- Once the water boils, turn the heat lower to medium high and add the dry pasta. Cook it until it is just a tad from al dente. Strain the pasta, and keep about ½ cup (120 ml) of the pasta cooking water aside for later.
- Place a large skillet over medium heat and add 3 tbsp of the olive oil to it. Add the sliced garlic and stir fry it for a minute. Add the white wine and the fresh clams and turn the heat up. Cover the skillet and let the ingredients cook for about 3 to 4 minutes until the fresh clams are open.
- Add half of the pasta water you put aside. Bring it to a light boil and add the cooked pasta as well. Toss constantly until the pasta is perfectly al dente. Add extra pasta water if the pasta is too dry.
- Add the chopped parsley and toss again to combine. Check the seasoning and add salt to taste if necessary.
- Divide the pasta vongole over 2 deep plates and drizzle with the rest of the olive oil.
How do you tell if clams are bad after cooking?
Clams are done when they open up, so whether you are steaming, grilling or baking it is easy to know when they are ready to eat.
You can also rely on your sense of smell and taste.
If a clam doesn’t taste of smell well, better spit it out or discard it.
Can you get sick from eating too many clams? Can you eat clams every day?
Moderation goes a long way.
Anyway eating too much of anything will always make you uncomfortable.
It is no secret that eating raw, undercooked or bad clams and seafood or shellfish in general can make you very sick.
Food poisoning symptoms can include vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, severe stomach ache and weakness.
Some people are even allergic to seafood or shellfish.
Are vongole same as pippies?
In Australia clams are called pipis or pippies.
They are slightly stronger and richer in flavor and therefore just perfect for a pasta vongole!
Compared to pipis, vongole clams have a more subtle flavor and are less chewy.
What is the difference between cockles and vongole?
You can find clams in different shapes and sizes.
Compared to clams, cockles are darker in color and have a distinct rounder shape and and outspoken line pattern on the shells.
Vongole clams have a whiter soft flesh whereas cockles are more orange and are chewier.
That said, if you can’t find clams, cockles with spaghetti is also highly delicious!
Are clams good for weight loss? How many calories does vongole have?
Regularly eating seafood and shellfish is very healthy.
They are packed with proteins and healthy fats that are beneficial for weight loss and a healthy diet.
Our pasta vongole recipe above contains 480 calories.
Are clams high in cholesterol?
Yes, shellfish are high in cholesterol.
Again, moderation goes a long way.