The one-two punch of clams is irresistible
6 very large chowder clams (each about 8 to 10 ounces)
28-ounce can tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large head garlic, cut in thin slices, plus 1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
1 1/2 pounds small Manila clams, scrubbed
1/3 cup shredded fresh basil plus whole leaves for garnish
1. Open the chowder clams, making sure to catch all the clam juice. Coarsely chop the clams and reserve them. You should have about 3/4 cup of chopped clams and 1 1/2 cups of clam juice. Reserve the clam juice.
2. Strain out the tomatoes from the can of tomatoes, reserving both the liquid and the tomatoes. Coarsely chop the tomatoes.
3. Place the olive oil in a large saucepan over low heat. Add the sliced garlic cloves, and cook gently until they start turning golden brown, about 20 minutes. Add 1 cup of the clam juice, reserving the rest. Add 1 cup of the tomato liquid to the saucepan, reserving the rest for another use. Bring to a boil, then simmer the tomato mixture gently until it is reduced to about 1 1/4 cups, about 45 minutes.
4. When ready to serve, add the Manila clams to the tomato-clam sauce, and toss with the remaining tablespoon of minced garlic. Cover and simmer until the shells swing open, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove and reserve Manila clams. Add the coarsely chopped tomatoes and the shredded basil to the sauce, and simmer 2 to 3 minutes.
5. Drain the hot pasta in a colander, and toss with a little olive oil. Place the pasta cooking pot, now dry, over very low heat. Add about half of the sauce, along with the minced chowder clams and the reserved Manila clams. Add the drained pasta, and toss well for 1 minute. Add the remaining 1/2 cup or so of reserved clam juice. Divide pasta among 4 to 6 pasta bowls. Top with the remaining sauce and the basil leaf garnish, and serve immediately.
There are many ways to make this dish. We celebrate its Little Italy roots, and make it with a megaton of garlic. The one-two punch of clams is irresistible: chopped, soft bellies of large clams mingle with the small, brittle shells and succulent little bellies of Manila clams. Great on linguine, or, even better, on linguine piccole, or narrow linguine. Makes enough sauce for 1 pound dried pasta