Photo by Mike Nizza
Adapted from Andrew Carmellini's Urban Italian
¾ pound of Manila clams, scrubbed with determination
1 pound of dried linguine
½ cup bacon, roughly chopped
1 cup flat parsley, chopped
1 cup sweet peppers, preferably small, colorful ones sliced into tiny circles
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, sliced Goodfellas thin
pinch or more of red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon of flour
1 cup dry white wine
extra virgin olive oil
1. Start by filling your biggest pot with water two inches shy of the top, and then cover. Turn up heat all the way and hope it begins boiling before you finish the sauce.
2. Then build the base for the sauce. It all begins with a cold pan with 2 tablespoons of oil and all the bacon. Turn up the heat to medium and shake the pan so that you've got maximum meat-to-metal contact. Cook until the bacon has crisped up and released much of its fat. About 10 minutes or so. Scoop out bacon with a slotted spoon, reserving in a bowl.
3. Fast and furious is the word at this point. Turn up the heat all the way and add garlic and onions to the pepper flake, oil and bacon fat. A minute later, add peppers. Season everything with salt and pepper. Stir and shake the pan every 30 seconds or so--not constantly--to prevent burning. Less than 4 minutes later you should have what you are looking for: chopped vegetables with golden brown edges but not much more color than that.
4. Turn down the heat to medium. Using a tablespoon, scoop some flour and sprinkle around the pan. Then stir to combine fat and flour in a smooth paste. Cook for a minute, then toss in the wine and the clams. Shake the pan and then cover.
5. Take lid of pasta pot and fling in a handful of salt into the boiling water. Drop in linguine.
6. Reopen clam pot 5 minutes later. If the clams have opened, move on to next step, if not, put the lid back on for another minute or two.
7. Discard unopened clams, and also any shells that have lost their meat. This is a step you could easily ignore in the middle of cooking, but it shows that you care. Cook down any liquid in the pot until it begins to thicken. If you go too far, you can always add some pasta water to the mix.
8. By now, the pasta should be al dente. I prefer dried to fresh linguine because it has a bite--the worst thing you can do is overcook it. You should feel the tiniest of strands of raw-ish pasta when you bite the linguine. Strain.
9. Turn up the heat. Add pasta to clam pot, then bacon, then parsley. Use tongs to toss well, making sure that the sauce is coating the linguine.
10. Transfer to your nicest bowls, preferably rinsed with hot water when you've had ten spare seconds, and make sure you take an extra one to the table for shells. Give each portion a turn of pepper, a pinch of chopped parsley and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Serve with bruschetta, which balances the saltiness of the clams with explosive sweetness. And the bread comes in handy when you hit the bottom of the bowl.
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