"Clam pasta is a great way to extract all the flavor and texture of clams," says Berkeley chef and cooking teacher Samin Nosrat. "Their juices mingle with the butter and wine and cook into the pasta, and the clams themselves are tender-chewy. It's like having the ocean in a bowl." Serve with lots of crusty bread for sopping up juices.
About 3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
2 or 3 flat-leaf parsley sprigs, plus 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley. "Make sure your parsley is really dry--it's easier to chop," says Nosrat
3 pounds littleneck clams, scrubbed well
About 1 cup dry white wine, divided
2 to 3 tsp. chopped whole dried red chiles or red chile flakes
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 pounds Homemade Orecchiette, or 1 1/2 lbs. store-bought*
2 pounds Manila clams, scrubbed well
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons finely shredded parmesan cheese
How to Make It
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. (Go easy on the salt; clams are quite salty.)
Heat a large (not nonstick) frying pan over medium heat and swirl in 2 tbsp. oil. Add 2 tbsp. onion and the parsley sprigs. Add as many littlenecks as will fit in one layer, then pour in 1/2 cup wine.
Crank up heat to high, cover pan, and let clams steam until they open, 2 to 3 minutes; transfer to a bowl as they open. Add remaining littlenecks to pan and cook the same way.
Strain cooking liquid through a fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth; set aside. Once clams are cool, pluck from shells and roughly chop. Set aside in a small bowl with just enough cooking liquid to cover.
Rinse pan, then set over medium heat. Add 1 tbsp. oil, remaining onion, and a pinch of salt. Cook until tender, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. It's okay if onion picks up color, but don't let it burn; add a splash of water if you need to. Add chile and garlic; cook 1 minute.
Boil orecchiette until tender to the bite, 7 to 10 minutes if fresh, 15 to 20 if dried.
Meanwhile, add Manilas to onion and crank up heat to high. Add a healthy splash of clam cooking liquid or wine and cover pan. As soon as clams open, add littlenecks. Let reduce 2 to 3 minutes and add lemon juice and/or more wine to taste.
Scoop out pasta and stir into clams. Taste and adjust for salt, spiciness, and acid. Pasta should be quite juicy--if not, add more spoonfuls of clam cooking liquid, wine, or pasta water. Toss in butter and cheese and allow to melt, coating pasta. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and spoon into bowls.
*Because store-bought pasta is thinner than homemade, you get more pieces per pound.
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