When I lived in Italy, my favorite dish to order when dining out, was spaghetti alle vongole. I remember eating an amazing spaghetti alle vongole in a tiny restaurant off the beaten path in Venice. The flavors meshed perfectly and every bite was a fork-full of perfection.
Spaghetti alle vongole is unbelievable because of its simplicity. Its flavor profile is entirely based on the strength of its ingredients. In a great dish, the light olive oil, white wine, clam sauce is smooth and flavorful, not too fishy, and the sauce is filled with fresh clams that top perfectly al dente pasta.
The following dish is not spaghetti alle vongole, it is spaghetti alle cozze. The mussels on the west coast are much better than clams, and so I made the decision to go with fresher seafood and to make a mussel sauce instead of a clam sauce. Although a different dish, this spaghetti alle cozze is reminiscent of that excellent dish I had in Venice. Italian white wine, perfectly al dente spaghetti, and extremely fresh mussels, ensured that this spaghetti alle cozze turned out just as good as any sea food pasta dish I had in Italy. It served as a taste of Italy, a memory of my two years in Italy at my home in Berkeley.
Always remember in simple dishes such as Spaghetti alle Cozze, to pick the freshest ingredients available and hopefully you won’t be disappointed. It’s also extremely important to cook your pasta al dente. Pasta cooked al dente has a lower glycemic index than over-cooked pasta, meaning it’s better for blood sugar control. In my roommates words, “Al dente forever!”
Spaghetti alle Cozze
- 5 cloves garlic
- 4 tbs. olive oil
- 1 tbs. salt
- pinch black pepper
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1 1/2 cups zima tomatoes (or one package)
- 1 tsp. crushed red pepper
- 1 lb. fresh salt water mussels
- 2 tbs. butter
- package spaghetti
- 1 bunch parsley
Start by cleaning and sorting mussels. Throw out any mussels that are already open. Rinse and scrub brine off of shells. De-beard mussels by pulling “beard”from mussels. Put aside.
Press garlic with back of knife and peel.
Place garlic, salt, black pepper, and olive oil in a large pan over low heat. Cook stirring occasionally until garlic are soft and golden but not burnt, and olive oil has a nice galicky flavor and aroma.
While you are waiting, fill a large sauce pan with water and place covered over high heat. Add pinch of salt once water boils.
Turn heat up to medium on the garlic burner. Add cherry tomatoes and white wine to garlic oil. Cook stirring for 10-15 minutes until tomatoes are soft, but not too saucy. Add crushed red peppers.
Add mussels. Cook over medium- high heat or until mussels have opened. Add butter and lower heat to thicken sauce.
While the mussels are cooking throw your spaghetti in your boiling water and cook for one minute less than the package dictates or until pasta is ideally al dente. Remove from heat and strain in colander.
Mix pasta in with mussel sauce. Top with chopped fresh parsley.
Enjoy with a nice glass of pinot grigio. Buon appetito!