This classic dish is easy to make at home. Its success relies on uncompromisingly fresh clams and fruity extra-virgin olive oil. For a beautiful presentation and fun eating, serve the clams in their shells, as the Italians do, and pick them up to eat with your hands.
Linguine with Clams
Kosher salt for purging clams and cooking pasta
1 cup (5 oz./155 g.) cornmeal
4 lb. (2 kg.) cockles or Manila clams, or 4 dozen small littleneck clams
1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml.) extra-virgin olive oil
5 large cloves garlic, minced
6 Tbs. (1/3 oz./10 g.) chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml.) dry white wine
Fine sea salt
1 lb. (500 g.) thin linguine or spaghetti
In a large bowl or other large vessel, combine 4 qt. (4 l.) water and 1/3 cup (3 oz./90 g.) kosher salt and stir until the salt dissolves, then stir in the cornmeal. Scrub the clams well with a stiff vegetable brush and add to the bowl. Add cold water to cover and let stand for 1-3 hours to purge the clams of any sand or grit. Drain well and rinse again, discarding any that do not close tightly to the touch.
In a deep frying pan large enough to accommodate the clams and pasta later, and with a tight-fitting lid, warm the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic, 4 tablespoons (1/4 oz./7 g.) of the parsley and the red pepper flakes and cook gently, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is softened but not colored, 3-4 minutes. Add the clams, wine and 1 teaspoon sea salt and immediately cover tightly. Raise the heat to medium and cook, occasionally shaking the pan for even cooking, until the clams open, about 10 minutes, depending on the type of clam used.
Uncover and use a spoon to toss the clams with the liquid in the pan. Lift out any empty shells and discard, and discard any clams that did not open. You can use the sauce with the clams in their shells or, if preferred, shell some of all of them. The sauce with be brothy and full of flavor.
While the clams are cooking, in a large pot, bring 5 qt. (5 l.) water to a rapid boil. Check the package directions for the cooking time, then add 2 tablespoons kosher salt and the pasta to the water, stir well, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is 1-2 minutes shy of being al dente.
Drain the pasta, add to the sauce in the pan, and place the pan over low heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons parsley and toss the pasta and clam sauce together for a minute or so. Some of the brothy sauce will be absorbed by the pasta, but plenty will remain, keeping the pasta very moist. Transfer to a warmed large, shallow serving bowl or individual shallow bowls and serve right away. Serves 4-6.