Pasta arrosto con le arselle
(Roasted spaghetti with baby clams)
In recent years, it has become fashionable in northern Italy to serve a dish called pasta risottata, which is similar to fideua in that noodles are cooked as if they are rice in risotto, rather than boiled in the usual way. We had assumed this was a new idea, possibly inspired by the Catalan fideua, but going through a Ligurian cookbook published in the early 1800s, we came across a fantastic recipe similar to fideua but much simpler, where the pasta is “roasted” in the sauce. In spring you can add fresh peas, for colour and flavour.
1kg clams (vongole), pippies or cockles
100ml olive oil
a handful of finely chopped flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
1 garlic clove, chopped
5 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
40g pine nuts, lightly crushed in a mortar
100g podded fresh peas
400g spaghetti, broken into small pieces
Put the clams, with a little water, in a saucepan. Cover and place over high heat for about 3 minutes, until the clams start to open, removing them as they open. Strain the liquid into a bowl, keeping the saucepan handy. When the clams have cooled, take them out of their shells and set them aside in the bowl with the cooking water.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4.
Splash the olive oil into the pan the clams were cooked in and place it over medium heat. Add the parsley and garlic; stir and sizzle for 3 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and a little salt and pepper, mixing thoroughly. Allow the sauce to reduce over medium heat for 6 minutes. Now add the pine nuts, the peas and the broken-up spaghetti. Stir and add the reserved water from the clams. Cook over medium heat for another 6 minutes, stirring regularly.
Stir in the clams, then spread the mixture over a baking tray or ovenproof frying pan. Bake for 10 minutes, until the pasta on the surface starts to turn golden.
Remove from the oven and leave to rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Extracted from Coastline: The Food of Mediterranean Italy, France & Spain by Lucio Galletto and David Dale (Murdoch Books, approx €29). Photography by Bree Hutchins.