Linguini and Cape Cod Clams: Manhattan-Style

30 Aug

Nauset Beach Clams

Thanks to the hard work of the very generous owner of the 100-year-old house I rent with my family each summer in Cape Cod, a bucket of freshly dug little neck and cherrystone clams was waiting for us when we returned one day from the beach. I could make chowdah, New England-style with potatoes, milk, onions and bacon. I could just open them up and eat them raw. I could steam them and dip them in butter and broth. Or, considering I had several ripe, in season, tomatoes that I wanted to use before they became overripe, I could make linguini with clam sauce, Manhattan-style (meaning a tomato-based sauce).

Local tomatoes

Given the option at a restaurant between red or white clam sauce, I always prefer the latter; the hearty red tomato sauce usually obscuring the distinct flavor of the clams. White clam sauce works for me. The garlic, olive oil, white wine, some red pepper flakes, and then the broth from the just opened clams makes for the perfect complement to either spaghetti or linguini. It’s easy to make and really, the only danger to screwing it up is to overcook the clams.

But with those ripe tomatoes and the bucket of clams, I decided to take a chance and combine the two over linguini.

This is what I used for the sauce:

4 overly ripe fresh, large tomatoes, diced.

20 clams (Cherrystone and Little Necks combined)

3 cloves of garlic

1/4 cup of chopped white onion

2 tbs of chopped basil

1 ½ pounds of linguini

¼ cup of olive oil

½ teaspoon of hot red pepper flakes

I first diced the tomatoes not bothering with skinning or seeding them and put them in a bowl with a few sprinkles of Kosher salt. While the tomatoes macerated, I rinsed the clams in cold water to remove whatever sand was clinging to them. Once cleaned, I put the clams in a big pot adding about an inch of water to steam them.* Covering the pot and turning the fire on high, I steamed the clams just until their shells opened and then put them aside.

The clams now steamed open.

Using a large skillet, I added the olive oil and softened the onions and garlic sprinkling the red pepper flakes into the pan. When the onions and garlic were cooked, I tossed in the tomatoes adding the broth from the steamed clams and brought it all to a low simmer.

Cooking the tomatoes down

While the tomatoes cooked down, I removed the clams from the shells and roughly chopped them. Chopped clams, in my opinion, should not be uniform in size. I like the surprise of a big, juicy belly along with the tougher tail end of the clam.

The clams chopped.

After chopping the clams, I boiled the water for the linguini. Once the water boiled, I tossed in the pasta, adding salt to the water. Just before the linguini was cooked al dente I folded the chopped clams and the chopped basil into the sauce, keeping it on a fire just hot enough to heat them.

The sauce.

Using tongs, I tossed the linguini in the sauce and then into bowls.

The result was a light, fresh, briny tomato sauce where, in this case, the flavor of the clams and the broth balanced each other perfectly.

Linguini and Cape Cod Clam sauce: Manhattan-Style: As pretty as it gets after too much “limeade.”

*Before I began preparing the meal, I had told myself to save about a half dozen of the smallest of the little necks to steam open directly in the sauce. The clams in their shells would not only look nice, but because of their size, also remain tender. But while preparing the above dish, I began to consume multiple glasses of limeade spiked with vodka and when it came time to steam the clams, dumped them all into the pot including the few I was hoping to reserve.  Once I realized my mistake, it was too late. The little necks were cooked.

2 Responses to “Linguini and Cape Cod Clams: Manhattan-Style”

  1. Paul August 30, 2011 at 6:14 pm #

    Sounds like the best of both worlds — clams plus red sauce, without losing the flavor of the seafood. Yum!

  2. Anonymous August 31, 2011 at 1:02 am #

    I think Olive Garden makes a version of that, but they use cut up tennis balls as clams, rubber bands as linguini, and ketchup at sauce. It’s surprisingly undelicious!

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