Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Spaghetti with clams, cherry tomatoes and saffron

When I was almost two years old, my parents and I went on a summer vacation to Isola del Giglio, a small island off the coast of Tuscany, close to bigger, more famous Isola d'Elba. It was a quiet family vacation that involved lots of hanging out at the local beach and eating simple local dishes which were, as they are on most islands, mostly seafood based. My mom especially enjoyed spaghetti with clams —the garlic and white wine, no tomato version. The version any spaghetti with clams purist loves. And although I wasn't even two years old, I loved clams so much I snatched them from my mom's plate with my chubby little fingers, leaving her with a dish of spaghetti in olive oil and parsley.

To this day, spaghetti with clams is one of my favorite pasta dishes and I love both the white and the red versions —there's something about the briny saltiness of the clams that makes me want to eat more and more of it. So the other day, when I found both clams and cherry tomatoes on sale at the grocery store I couldn't resist and decided to whip up some spaghetti with clams. The addition of saffron is something I thought of at the last minute, an idea that hit me because I had once eaten a guazzetto of clams and mussels in a tomato saffron broth and thought it was amazing. I have to say that it added a certain something to my dish, even though I'm sure my spaghetti with clams purist mom wouldn't agree.
 
SPAGHETTI WITH CLAMS, CHERRY TOMATOES AND SAFFRON
Serves 4

3/4 pound spaghetti
2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
Extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves of garlic
1 glass dry white wine
1 teaspoon saffron
2 pounds littleneck clams
Crushed red pepper

Heat up some olive oil in a large skillet. Add garlic and red hot pepper and make it fizzle, without burning it. Add well-washed clams, drizzle with a glass of white wine, cover and wait until they open. When they are opened, remove most clams from their shells, leaving only a few for decoration. Discard any clams that haven't opened. Return clams to pan, add cherry tomatoes and saffron and keep warm over low heat.

In the mean time, cook spaghetti, and drain them slightly undercooked. Add them to clams, sautè everything for a couple of minutes and serve.

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