Enough “Vongole”. You can walk to any restaurant on or near the Italian coast and the staff will know what you want. You’ll crave that most construction, spaghetti ale vongole. Although we like to remind ourselves that Italian food is intensely regional, spaghetti with oysters is ubiquitous from Venice all the way down the Adriatic coast, around the heels and back to Rome and beyond, with little difference.
Back in Puglia a couple of weeks ago, it took two days before I had Vongoli, in Rosa. The owner of the same name is not a mug. She’s right there, welcoming returning customers, and walking around the tables in her designer chef’s jacket and gold Dolce & Gabbana shoes. But high fashion stops there. There is nothing artful about the food from the menu set in stone.
Starts with appetizers: stuffed mussels, mussels, rice and potatoes cooked in small clay pots, octopus in various shapes, pickled small anchovies and pieces of swordfish. Then the crudo arrives: everything raw, including red prawns from Sicily or Sardinia, langoustines, mussels, oysters, and a few oysters. Then comes the noodles which are usually vongole. Those who crave lobster are discouraged for economic reasons. And then, if you have the space, there’s a flawless frito mist or grilled fish, usually sea bass, bream, or red mullet. Everything is as it should be, correct and tuning.
Unfortunately, there is a great deal of restraint. It takes us about a minute to absorb the small amount from our plates. Even in Italy, they are upset. The plague caused prices to rise and fall. As portion sizes in restaurants everywhere seem to be getting smaller, I’m glad I’m not quite as greedy as I used to be. Still, another good reason to cook at home.
alle vongole pasta
The safe mode of cooking this dish will be to cook the oysters in advance, taking them from their shells and combining them again with spaghetti and juice (strain if desired); However, cooking it as follows, in real time, is faster and more enjoyable.
Dissolve 100 grams of salt in 200 ml of boiling water. Add 800ml of cold water and soak the oysters in this brine for a few hours. This will clear them of gravel if they have any. Rinse the oysters with plenty of cold running water and discard any oysters that do not close after the tap.
Bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil and add the spaghetti. You will need 2 minutes less than the time recommended on the package. Heat a large frying pan with half the olive oil and add the garlic. After 30 seconds, add the drained oysters and white wine and cover. The clam will open after two minutes. Add hot pepper and parsley and remove from heat.
Once the spaghetti is ready but still good the dentReturn the oysters to the heat and lift the spaghetti with tongs directly to the oysters. Stir everything together and let the spaghetti continue to cook for a few minutes, absorbing the clam juices while doing so.
The battle to find delicious, fresh and mild wines continues in Puglia. Native grapes like Falanghina can be interesting and there are countless blends of the more popular grapes – Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc – but they rarely stir up enthusiasm. Verdicchio from up the coast at Le Marche is likely to have the requisite vitality and freshness that seafood pasta demands.
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