This variation on the classic spaghetti alle vongole is adapted from The Flavors of Southern Italy by Erica Mane (Wiley, 2004). In her Italian-American home, De Mane grew up eating some version of the dish on Christmas Eve.
The clams and energetic citrus in this spaghetti are played off on the rich, lemony character of a Fiano di Avellino or Greco di Tufo; recommended producers include Feudi di San Gregorio, Mastroberardino, Terredora and Villa Matilde.
- 3 pounds cockles, or Manila clams
- 3/4 cup dry white wine
- Kosher salt or sea salt
- 1 pound spaghetti or linguine
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
Scrub the cockles, cover with cold water, and let soak for about 20 minutes. Lift out the cockles; if any sand remains, repeat. Place the cockles in a large saucepan and add the wine. Turn the heat to medium, cover the pan, and cook until the cockles open, 5 to 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the cockles to a bowl and cover to keep warm. Reserve the cooking liquid.
Meanwhile, bring 6 quarts of cold water and 2 tablespoons salt to a boil in a large pot. Add the spaghetti, stir, and cook until al dente.
In a large skillet, heat 1/3 cup olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and sauté until faintly golden. Pour half of the reserved cockle cooking liquid into the skillet. Add the lemon zest and juice, and let the sauce bubble for a minute or two.
Add the cockles with the remaining cooking liquid to the skillet. (If the skillet is not large enough, pour the sauce over the cockles.) Taste and add salt if needed; season with pepper.
Drain the spaghetti and return it to the pot. Give it a generous drizzle of olive oil and add the parsley; toss well.
To serve, spread the pasta on a platter or divide among shallow soup bowls. Top with the cockles and their sauce. Serve immediately.