Today I remember the wonderful Rose Gray – she sadly died on this day back in 2010 from breast cancer. Co-Founder, with Ruth Rogers, of the iconic London Italian restaurant The River Café she was way ahead of her time both as a chef and as a cookery writer. The River Café Cookbook is one of my all time favorites – the recipes are simple, accessible and no-nonsense. Like so many other Brits Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers introduced me to regional, proper Italian food with recipes that relied upon excellent ingredients over complicated techniques.
At McCalls the clams looked great, ‘Delivered this morning.’ For our family supper I cooked up spaghetti and clams in the spirit of Rose Gray and the River Café. It’s by no means traditional and definitely more in line with the restaurant on the Thames in Hammersmith rather than anything from Venice. I used tarragon rather than parsley and added dry vermouth and a knob of butter to finish the sauce. This spicy seafood pasta is both comforting and delicious.
Spaghetti Alle Vongole Spaghetti and Clams
2 pounds clams
1 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup of dry vermouth, Noilly Prat
1 packet spaghetti
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large shallot finely chopped
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 garlic cloves, sliced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons chopped tarragon
2 oz butter (optional)
Fleur de sel and freshly gound black pepper
How to make Spaghetti all Vongole
- Place clams in a sink filled with cold water. Scrub shells well with a coarse brush to remove any sand. Drain water and soak clams in clean water, repeating until water remains clean.
- In a large pan heat the wine and vermouth and add the cleaned clams. Cover with the lid and cook for about 5 minutes – the clams will open.
- Heat a large pot of water. When boiling add salt and then add spaghetti. Stir and cook until al dente – the pasta will finish cooking in the wine broth of the clams.
- In a large chef pan add 1 tablespoon olive oil and cook the shallot, onion and garlic until translucent, about 5 mins. Add the red pepper flakes.
- Remove the clams from the broth, discard any unopened ones. Strain the broth and set aside. Divide the clams in half and keep one half in the shells and shuck the other half, adding them to the shallot/onion mix. De-glaze the chef pan with a couple of spoons of broth from the clams. Add the strained broth and and half the tarragon. Reduce on medium-high heat as you strain the pasta.
- Add the cooked pasta to the chef pan and cook for a couple of minutes. Add a knob of butter if you desire – Rose would have!).
- Divide the clams in shells between 4 pasta bowls, add the pasta and spoon over extra sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining tarragon and serve.
Do you have a favorite pasta dish – perhaps it’s one of the River Café dishes? Are you in Nigella’s camp of blanco or do you like to add some tomatoes to the dish?