This is a classic recipe from Naples for clams in red sauce. What makes this dish so popular with the Neapolitans is the sweetness of the clams and the fact that Naples is home to those
fabulous plum tomatoes called San Marzano. And even though our clams are much different, try using Manila or mahogany clams if you can, and use the best tomatoes available.
4 pounds littleneck, mahogany or Manila clams in their shells, soaked and well scrubbed
1/2 cup Dell'Orto Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 cloves minced garlic
1 hot red pepper, crushed
3 cups peeled, seeded and diced plum tomatoes, or the canned equivalent
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
Salt to taste
Grinding black pepper to taste
1/2 pound spaghetti
Pour 1/4 cup of the olive oil into a large sauté pan. Heat the oil over medium heat, then add the clams. Cover the pan, shake it a couple of times and cook the clams until they open. Remove them from their shells, but keep about 6 whole in the shell for garnish. Reserve the liquid from the pan, straining it if necessary to remove any sediment. Set the liquid aside.
In the same pan heat the remaining oil and add the garlic and hot red pepper and cook until the garlic begins to soften but does not turn color. Stir in the tomatoes and cook over medium high heat for 3 or 4 minutes. Lower the heat to medium and stir in the reserved clam juice. Cook uncovered until the sauce thickens a bit.
Salt and pepper to taste.
Add the reserved shucked clams and the parsley. Keep the sauce warm, covered, over low heat.
Cook the spaghetti until al dente; drain and add to the sauce in the saucepan.
Transfer the mixture to a serving platter and garnish with the whole clams.