Now about this recipe, I get very excited when I find shell fish at the store. Some of my fondest memories of childhood, are summer vacations at my great grandmother’s house, in a small town called Chirimena. For my grandmother that was a busy time for business, as she had a little kiosk on the beach where she prepared, and sold the most delicious food. Our job as kids was simple: sit in the sand with a bucket, right where the waves ended, and wait for the water to bring some clams. We had to try to get as many as possible when the tide pulled back, as they worked quickly to bury themselves in the sand. It was so much fun! Sometimes grandma had to ask that we stop digging them out, because she had more than enough. Needless to say that we had clams with everything, and I really mean EVERYTHING. We ate them in arepas (Venezuelan typical corn meal breakfast), empanadas, soups, rice, and pastas. By the end of the summer I wanted nothing to do with either digging clams, nor eating them (until next summer!).
Who would have known, that one day, coming by fresh clams would be the highlight of my day. Another fact that makes me really happy about clams (and any seafood, really!) is that my kids love them too. It makes me feel as if it is a proof that they carry my genes 🙂 My sister brought me some Saffron from La Mancha – Spain, and I wanted to make something special before she went back. And so we sat in the kitchen the first Sunday of January, opened a bottle of crisp Verdejo, and chatted all the way through this recipe. That’s my favorite part of cooking with company 🙂
Clams & pasta cook at about the same time. I start my sauce when I start bringing the water to a boil, and add the clams to the sauce when I add the pasta to the water. That way when the pasta is al dente, the clams are cooked. Then I move the clams to a plate quickly and mix the tagliatelle with the broth. Then I nest the clams in the pasta as I serve my family, and top them with a mix of cilantro, almonds and olive oil, that gives it a final crunch. This Tagliatelle with Clams & Saffron Broth tastes like childhood memories to me, nothing can top that. To a prosperous 2016! Cheers!
1 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon saffron
1/4 cup olive oil
1 shallot, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon crushed red peppers
6 sweet peppers, finely diced (about 1 cup)
1 lemon, zest & juice
2 lb. littleneck clams
1 12oz. Package of Tagliatelle
Salt & pepper to taste
For the topping:
1/2 cup roasted almonds, chopped
2 Tablespoons fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste
Scrub the clams with a kitchen brush, under running water. In a small bowl, mix all the ingredients for the topping, and set aside.
Pour wine in a microwave safe cup, heat for 30 seconds on high. Add saffron to warm wine and let it sit until ready to use. This will help the saffron release its color, and flavor.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. In the meantime, heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a large pot or skillet over medium heat, add shallot, garlic, and crushed red pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until soften, about 2 minutes. Stir in sweet peppers. Season with salt & pepper. Add wine and saffron, bring to a boil, and cook for about 4 minutes. Add lemon zest and juice. Add clams, cover pot. Cook, shaking occasionally until all the clams have opened, about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, cook tagliatelle in the large pot of boiling salted water stirring occasionally until al dente. Drain, and reserve some of the cooking water.
When the clams are opened, move them to a plate. Add the cooked tagliatelle over to the saffron broth, toss gently, add pasta water if needed, until sauce coats the pasta. Season to taste. Transfer the pasta into serving plates, nest the clams in, top with the almond-cilantro mixture. Enjoy!