Spaghetti With Canned-Clam Sauce

Photograph: Sho Spaeth

It’s tempting to claim that this recipe for clam sauce, made with canned clams, is a product of coronavirus.

It would be easy to frame it as a nimble pivot on the part of our recipe team—particularly a specific, man-of-the-people recipe team member (me)—to address the needs of a readership that finds itself increasingly relying on dried pasta and canned products to provide sustenance in variety during this time of isolation. Yes, past Serious Eats pasta recipes may have struck the reader as being needlessly prescriptive and haughtily proscriptive, oozing with condescension for those who prefer their noodles to actually be cooked rather than briefly warmed and wet in the manner Italians call “al dente”—the horror—and to frequently raise the question: “Why the fuss? Isn’t it just pasta?” But with the advent of the crisis, the framing would go, in a time of desperately needed understanding and accommodation, Serious Eats chose the enlightened path and decided to unburden itself of silly Italianate pretension about noodles, which the Chinese do better anyway.

Alas, I can’t frame it that way. While the Chinese indeed do noodles better, our plan to publish this recipe was hatched many, many months ago, when I was looking through our pasta recipe archive and realized we didn’t have a recipe for clam sauce made from canned clams. When we decided to do a whole month of dried-pasta related work, I made the case for this humble recipe, which, I argued, the people, our readers, would love, just as I love it, and for the same reasons: It is clammy—and I love clams; it is easy—and I love easy; it is fast—who doesn’t love fast?

Is it better than spaghetti alle vongole in bianco? No, no one could possibly say that, as a freshly steamed clam is a thing of beauty beyond compare, its meat plump and slippery, both soft and chewy at the same time, its juices clear and bracingly saline, the epitomic taste of the cold, clean sea. But is it pretty tasty and clammy and fast? Yes. And it’s perfect for when you need a little clam fix but there are no fresh clams to be had for miles and miles around.

This recipe is pretty close to the way I have made this dish for about 20 years, since I was in high school. In the spirit of allowing pretty much anything—the same generous spirit that Daniel and Sasha appear to have adopted in allowing this recipe to be published—know that adding a few chopped anchovies or a couple slices of bacon cut into tiny strips at the beginning will change the dish in favorable ways, if you like those flavors, but the only things I’ve found necessary over the years are the amount of butter, the garlic, celery and its leaves, the fresh parsley, and a splash of soy sauce for a more rounded savory flavor, courtesy of the glutamates.

Oh, and a big squeeze of lemon and fresh ground black pepper at the end really never hurt.

Published at Tue, 31 Mar 2020 07:45:07 +0000