Unbeknownst to me, my fish market closed for good and I promised Linguine Vongole for dinner. So no vongole to be had. What to do? Buy the best canned clams you can find and make the recipe without the shells. Here is what you need for two people: 1/2 pound linguine; 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced; pinch red pepper; 1-2 cans best chopped clams you can find-drain the juices and reserve; 1-2 tablespoons white wine; handful of arugula; 2 tablespoons butter to finish the sauce.
Set a large pot of water on high heat and when it comes to a boil salt to bring taste of the water to the taste of seawater. Meanwhile, thinly slice the garlic, drain the clams (reserving the juices) and rinse them thoroughly to remove any tinny taste. 2 minutes before the pasta is done, in a separate pan, heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil over medium heat and add the sliced garlic. Add a bit of the reserved clam juices (or water if not using the clams, more on that later) to the pan and allow the garlic to steep a bit. This process slows the cooking of the garlic and ensures that it will not burn while you are preparing the rest of the sauce. When the water comes to a boil, add the linguine and cook it to within 2 minutes of the recommended cooking time. Back to the pan for the sauce, add a pinch of red pepper flakes (or to your taste for heat) and stir. When the pasta is done, drain it reserving a cup of the pasta water for use if needed. Add the white wine to the sauce pan and and cook for a few seconds to remove the alcohol taste. Add the clams and their reserved juices to the sauce pan and warm through, no more than a minute, you don’t want to overcook the clams. Toss in the pasta and give everything a good stir. If the sauce looks dry, add a bit of the pasta water. Finish cooking everything together, about another minute or so and taste for seasoning. Add a handful of arugula and the butter and stir, emulsifying the sauce and melting the arugula.
If you don’t eat clams, you can make the sauce the same way just omit the clams. You will need to use more of the pasta water to create the sauce but it will taste just as good. Instead of Linguine Vongole, you will have made Linguine Aglio. If you add a splash of oil to the finished Linguine Aglio, you will have Linguine Aglio ed Olio.
Pour into a warm bowl. Serve with some good bread to soak up the juices. That’s it. It took longer to type this up than it will take to cook! 10 minutes start to finish. Not even enough time to finish a glass of wine! And you won’t miss the clam shells.