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Spaghetti alle vongole

(styling/karoline boehm goodnick; wiqan ang for the globe)
By Jill Santopietro
Globe Correspondent / January 28, 2009

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Serves 4

If dining on spaghetti with clams along Italy's Amalfi coast is not within reach, try making it on a frigid winter night. The traditional recipe calls for Mediterranean veraci clams, which are small, striped bivalves similar to the New Zealand cockles or manila clams available now in many fish markets. Steam the cockles or clams open in a garlicky white wine sauce, cook the spaghetti separately, and toss them together. Your home may not feel as glamorous as the Italian coastline, but within minutes you can still enjoy salty clams in a classic sauce.

Salt, to taste
2 1/2 pounds cockles or manila clams
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3/4 cup dry white wine
Juice of 1 lemon
12 ounces spaghetti (4 nickel-size bundles)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Grated rind of 1/2 lemon
1. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil over high heat.

2. Run cold water over the cockles or clams, brushing them to remove grit, until the water runs clear. Drain.

3. Set a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring often, for 1 minute or until the mixture is soft but not brown. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Add the lemon juice and cockles or clams. Cover with the lid and shake the pan often; check for open shells. With a slotted spoon, transfer the open clams to a bowl, letting the clam juices in the shells fall back into the pan.

4. Let the pot of water return to a boil. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes or until the pasta is still very chewy (it will cook more later). With a heatproof measuring cup, remove about 1 cup of pasta cooking water. Drain the pasta into a colander.

5. Meanwhile, let the clam juices simmer, uncovered, to reduce slightly. Add the parsley and lemon rind to the pan with salt and more red pepper, if you like.

6. Add the pasta to the clam sauce and cook, stirring gently to coat it, until the pasta is tender but still has some bite. If necessary, add pasta cooking water, a few spoonfuls at a time, to thin the sauce. Add the cockles or clams.