Cook Time: 20-30 minutes
Spaghetti (or linguini)
1-2 pounds of New Zealand cockles (other varieties of clams work well too, such as Little Neck clams. Feel free to experiment and see what you like).
Olive oil (for cooking and finishing)
2-3 garlic cloves
Splash of white wine
A few tablespoons of chopped flat-leaf parsley
Red pepper flakes (to taste)
First, clean the clams. To do so, soak them in cool water for about 15-20 minutes just before cooking. Once soaked, remove clams from water and use a brush to scrub off sand and other debris.
Next, bring water to a boil in a large stockpot. Once it reaches a boil, season generously with salt – the water should taste like the sea. Adding enough salt is crucial here because you will use the pasta water later on to help emulsify the sauce. If the water is properly salted, the pasta water will add flavor rather than dilute it. Add pasta to the salted, boiling water.
Heat roughly three tablespoons of olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add garlic and stir until it softens. Add a pinch or two of red pepper flakes and continue cooking for another 30 seconds or so. Add a few splashes of wine and then the clams.
Cover, and cook over medium-high heat. The clams should cook (that is, they will open) in about 5 minutes, depending on the size of the clams. (At this point, you can de-shell either all of the clams, or just some, depending on your preference). Lower the burner to medium heat.
When pasta is nearly al dente, use a ladle to transfer some of the pasta water to the pan and stir. Once pasta is al dente, transfer cooked pasta with tongs to the pan. Make sure you reserve the pasta water. Add about 1/4 cup of the pasta water to the pan and toss. This step is critical to creating an emulsified sauce – as you toss and stir, the pasta water will help the sauce bind to the pasta and emulsify the sauce. Add more pasta water if the pasta seems dry.
Add parsley and continue tossing. Transfer pasta to plate for serving. Drizzle with high-quality olive oil and add more parsley for garnish.