asta alla vongole! How often have you seen this dish on a menu and not just in an Italian restaurant? But what are vongole? Vongole is the Italian word for some – though not all – venus clams. A single mollusc is called a vongola and a golden venus clam goes by the evocative name of vongola gialla. Vongole can also refer to vongole telline, a very small variety of clam, but usually when you get clams in pasta, they are vongole veraci, also part of the venus clam family. Pasta alla vongole can be made with cockles as, although clams are firmer and have slightly more bite, cockles are juicier with a more delicate flavour. They make an excellent pasta dish such as this linguine cocciole.
- Yield: 4 Servings
- Total Time: 15 Minutes
- 400 g/14 oz linguine or spaghetti (or another dried pasta of your choice)
- handful of flat-leaf parsley, stalks and leaves separated
- 1 shallot, chopped
- ½ red chilli (chile), deseeded and finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 4 tbsp white wine
- 1 kg/2 lb 4 oz cockles, washed
- 12 cherry tomatoes, quartered
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
- Cook the pasta in a large pan of lightly salted water until it is al dente.
- Meanwhile, crush the parsley stalks with a heavy knife on a chopping board until they split to enhance their flavour. Cut the stalks into small pieces and finely chop the leaves.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan (skillet) over a medium-high heat and add the shallot and chilli (chile). Fry for 2 minutes until the shallot is translucent and softened. Add the garlic, fry for 1 minute and then add the parsley stalks. Deglaze the pan with the white wine. As soon as the wine bubbles, add the cockles and tomatoes and cover the pan with a lid. Turn the heat down to low. Shake the pan and lift the lid regularly to check if the cockle shells have opened. Add the chopped parsley leaves after 3 minutes.
- Once all the shells have opened – this will take 4–6 minutes – immediately take the pan off the heat. Taste the cooking liquid and season with salt and pepper but avoid adding too much salt as cockles are naturally quite salty.
- Drain the pasta and add it to the cockles. Toss well and serve with another pinch of black pepper sprinkled over.