Summer’s winding down but it ain’t over yet. While you could make this any time of year, for some reason, eating this on your porch or deck while the weather is fine is a glorious feast that should be served outdoors, with plenty of chilled white wine. This combination of clams and pasta stays close to its Italian roots: cook only a few very good ingredients and quit while you’re ahead. Don’t break the rule of no cheese with seafood, either. Scrub the clams well rather than soaking them, and deal with sand at the end of cooking by straining the broth. Many available clams do not have much sand, unless you are digging them yourself.
Lay out all the ingredients before you start cooking. While the pasta cooks, you have just enough time to sauté the pancetta, garlic and chilies, add wine to the pan and cook the clams. As they release their delicious juices, the salty, smoky pancetta and heat from the chili combine to make a flavorful sauce. Just toss and enjoy.
Linguine with clams, chilies and pancetta recipe
Salt (for the pasta water)
1 pound linguine
About 1/3 cup olive oil
4 ounces pancetta, cut into small cubes
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 small fresh red chili, thinly sliced
About 32 littleneck or mahogany clams
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 tablespoons coarsely chopped parsley
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 9 minutes, or until al dente. (Stop cooking about 2 minutes before the package directions indicate.) Set aside 1 cup of the pasta cooking water and drain in a colander. Toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil.
2 Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes, or until crisp. Use a slotted spoon to transfer it to a plate.
3 Return the skillet to medium heat. Add the garlic and chilies and cook, stirring often, for 1 minute. Add the clams and wine, increase the heat to high, and cook, covered, for 5 to 6 minutes, or until the clams open and release their juices. With a slotted spoon, transfer the clams, chilies and bits of garlic to a bowl.
4 Line a strainer with cheesecloth or a paper towel and set it over a bowl. Pour the sauce through it to catch any bits of grit. Pour it back into the pan.
5 Return the pan to medium heat and add the pancetta and linguine. Cook and toss the pasta for about 2 minutes, or until the sauce clings to it. Add more pasta cooking water, 1 tablespoon at a time, if the pasta seems dry.
6 Add the parsley, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Transfer the pasta to a serving bowl. Arrange the clams on top, and pour the juices from the bowl over the pasta. Drizzle with more olive oil, if you like.