Ciao Italia: My Lifelong Food Adventures in Italy
Mary Ann's newest book contains over 150 recipes, 60 gorgeous food photos, and many scenic pictures of Italy taken by Mary Ann on her travels through the years.
Guests will love opening these rustic-looking parchment bundles of spaghetti with clams. This is a favorite recipe as much for the presentation as well as the taste. Parchment paper keeps the pasta moist, and as soon as the bundles are opened, the escaping aroma brings you right to the seashore.
Make the dish as spicy as you would like by controlling the amount of fresh hot pepper added. And be sure to strain the cooking liquid from the clams well to eliminate any sand or grit.
1 packed cup thinly sliced scallions (about 10)
1 cup thinly sliced fennel, bulb only
2 teaspoons diced seeded jalapeno pepper, or more to taste
2 large cloves garlic, minced
½ cup diced drained dried tomatoes in olive oil
¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
¼ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
½ cup dry white wine
½ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
1 ½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 pound spaghetti, linguine, or shells
4 dozen small fresh clams like mahogany or Littleneck clams, scrubbed and soaked in several changes of water (discard any with broken shells)
1 cup dry white wine
Cut four sheets of parchment paper into 13 x 22-inch pieces and set aside.
Rinse the clams, place them in a large sauté pan, add the 1 cup of wine, cover the pan, and cook over medium heat just until the clams open. Remove them with a slotted spoon to a bowl. Discard any clams that do not open.
Strain the cooking liquid through damp cheesecloth into a bowl; reserve 1 cup of it, and set it aside. Shuck the clams, leaving eight in their shells. Set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Cook the scallions and fennel, stirring, until the fennel softens; stir in the diced jalapeno and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic softens but does not brown. Stir in the tomatoes, salt, and pepper and cook for 1 minute. Add the reserved cooking liquid and the ½ cup wine. Stir once or twice, reduce the heat to low and let the sauce cook, uncovered, for about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the parsley, lemon juice, and shucked clams. Cover the pan and keep warm while the spaghetti cooks.
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Cook the pasta following the package directions. Drain the pasta and add it to the pan with the clams; toss well to distribute the sauce. Divide the mixture among the parchment papers, mounding it in the center of each sheet. Place two of the remaining clams in the shells on top of each sheet. Bring the corners of the parchment paper up and twist them in the center to form a bundle. Tie each with kitchen string.
Place the bundles on a cookie sheet and cook for 10 minutes. Transfer each bundle to four individual shallow soup bowls and serve immediately, allowing, each person to open his or her own bundle.
Note: For a less showy presentation, transfer the pasta and sauce directly to a platter.
This recipe is from MANGIA PASTA by Mary Ann Esposito, published by William Morrow and Company, Inc., in 1998.