Summer goes by too fast! We just got back from our wonderful trip along the coast of the Pacific Northwest. From one of our vacation rentals on the rugged coast of Oregon we had a stunning view of the ‘Proposal Rock’, a huge rock rising up out of the ocean at Neskovin. We prepared this appropriate pasta dish with ingredients from the mountains and the sea: Spaghetti Monte e Mare. It’s made with clams, mushrooms, and for a real summer feeling, with tomatoes as well. A lovely combination. We used the outstanding Willapa Bay Clams, grown and harvested in Willapa Bay in Washington State, and locally foraged mushrooms. But of course it’s also great with any other littleneck clams and store-bought mushrooms (try shiitake, they are very tasty).
Action Time: 30-35 minutes, plus 30-60 minutes ‘purging’
2 pounds/1 kg little neck clams
3-4 tbsp olive oil, plus extra
3 garlic cloves, minced
10 oz/300 g mixed mushrooms, wiped clean and chopped coarsely
a good splash of white wine
½-1 tsp dried chili flakes
1 14-oz (400 g) can chopped tomatoes
14 oz/400 g (whole wheat) spaghetti
1 small handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped (optional)
1. You don’t want sand and grit to ruin your pasta, so first purge the clams in water with salt. Put the clams in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Add some salt to the water and let the clams sit for about 30-60 minutes. Drain the clams and scrub them under cold running water to remove any grit from the shells. Don’t use chipped shells or shells that do not shut after a tap against the counter.
2. Heat a little oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add half of the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the chopped mushrooms and cook, stirring, until the mushrooms start to soften, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove the mushrooms from the pan and put them on a plate. Set aside.
3. Pour a little oil in the same skillet and cook the rest of the garlic 30 seconds. Add the clams and wine, cover, and cook over high heat for about 3-4 minutes, shaking the pan frequently, until all clams have opened. With a slotted spoon, remove the clams from the pan and set them aside, save the cooking liquid. Don’t use clams that do not open up.
4. Add the tomatoes and chili flakes to the liquid in the pan and cook, stirring every now and then, over medium to high heat for 10-15 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Season with salt. Bring a large pan with water and some salt to a boil (for the spaghetti).
5. Meanwhile pick about 2/3 of the clam meat from the open shells. Cook the pasta al dente, according to the instructions on the package. About 1-2 minutes before the pasta is done, add the clams (shelled and not shelled) and mushrooms to the tomato sauce and heat over a low heat.
6. Drain the pasta, but reserve some of the cooking liquid. Add the pasta to the tomato-clam sauce. Toss gently and if it seems to dry, add a little of the cooking liquid. Divide over bowls or plates, sprinkle some extra olive oil over and grind a little black pepper over. Garnish with parsley, if using.