I’m embarrassed to say that, after so many years of cooking Italian food, I have never experimented with using whole live clams! I think it was because I felt intimidated by them….and afraid that I wouldn’t be able to tell if they were good or bad. But I decided to put my fears aside and be brave! If others could do it, so could I! And then, the internet is such a good resource for doing anything! I’m sure I could find out what to do with clams!! So, I went to my trusty fish market and bought about 9 beautiful large manila clams! I knew enough to ask the fish monger if they had a lot of sand in them and what to do to clean them. He informed me that they had already been cleaned, but to just put them in a bowl of cold water and swish them around a bit. The recipe I was using told me that to insure there was no sand left in them, to bring them to a light boil and allow them to just open. At that point you can inspect them to make sure there isn’t any sand left in them. This is also a good time to discard the ones that do not open. This is definitely the sign that it is not a good clam! The recipe called for straining this water I just cooked the clams in (I used a coffee filter inside a strainer to do this). I put the clams and water aside and proceeded with the next step.
The next ingredient to prepare was shrimp or prawns. I used the prawns from Trader Joe’s in the freezer section. I thawed them and rinsed them under cold water before drying them thoroughly. Once dried, I dredged them in a tiny bit of flour and then used some fine bread crumbs to coat them. The coating should be VERY light!
I placed about a 1/4 to 1/2 cup of good extra virgin olive oil in a pan and sauteed a couple of sliced garlic cloves along with about an 1/4 cup of minced parsley and some pepper until the garlic was just browned (be careful not to burn it!). To this, I added the shrimp and browned them on both sides until they were golden. At this point, I added about 3/4 cup of white wine and let it reduce a bit (about 3-5 minutes). I then added my clams and about 2 tablespoons of clam juice, cooking this for a couple of minutes. It’s a bit difficult to mix everything up with the clams in there, so while it was cooking, I spooned some of the liquid into the clams to flavor them. I tasted and adjusted the seasonings.
While all this was cooking, I cooked about 250 g of egg noodles in a separate pot. I used a mixture of green spinach noodles and white egg noodles to create the “paglia e fieno” – straw and hay – effect. This pasta cooks very rapidly – usually about 3 minutes in boiling and salted water. DO NOT OVERCOOK THE PASTA!!!
When the pasta was ready to mix with the seafood, I removed the clams from the shrimp mixture and put them aside. I then removed the pasta with a large wire pasta strainer like this one:
I put the pasta into the pan with the shrimp. Don’t worry if some of the pasta water comes with you – that’s OK. Once all the pasta was in the pan, I cooked it all together with the shrimp mixture until the pasta was well coated. This doesn’t take much time – just enough to coat everything. If the pasta is still a little dry, add some of the pasta water to moisten it. I then placed the pasta mixture into a serving dish and placed the clams into the dish. Voila! A beautiful presentation for a delicious Seafood Pasta Paglia e Fieno!