June: Linguine Alle Vongole

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Linguine with White Clam Sauce

Clam-Sauce with script

Sounds like a big deal – linguine, clams, vongole. Hmmm… not so much. The only big deal here is the wonderful dish that awaits. LINGUINE ALLE VONGOLE or Linguine with White Clam Sauce is easy, light, and perfect to start the summer menu for outdoor dining. Yes – outdoors – On the Patio – is right where I would go with this one. This dish was just made for an outdoor spread. You are not going to believe how easy it is to create one of the most famous of Italian seafood dishes. I just saw some beautiful Littleneck Clams the other day and thought, “It’s time!”  It is time to share this fabulous dish with you.

Linguine Alle Vongole was pretty ordinary around our house growing up  in Binghamton, NY, because it was a favorite of my father, Attilio, a fisherman at heart, who loved to take to the sea in the summer with his family in tow.  As a girl, we spent many summers on Cape Cod with various wonderful cousins of my mother, Loretta. We all inhabited cottages next to each other. It was the Italian version of the Kennedy compound—without the trust funds!  During the day, when the time was right, the kids would head, with their buckets, to the areas where the clams would be found and commenced to digging up as many as they could carry home to my Dad. He would then prepare two extraordinary sauces with these clams – one red – one white. The aunts prepared homemade pasta while we were all at the beach. Later at dinner time, everyone emerged from the family cottages to  grab a dish and line up  for Attilio’s “red” or “white”  sauce – both delicious and fresh. Such a memory – I can almost taste the pasta, fresh clams, and the the salt air that accompanied.

Today we’ll tackle the simple and fresh preparation of the “white” in Linguine Alle Vongole. Just relax and let the clams do the heavy lifting. They will release flavor from their broth that you will not believe!

LINGUINE ALLE VONGOLE

Clam-Sauce with script 2

Serves: 4

Prep: 5 minutes

Cook: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

1 lb. Linguine Pasta (thin, flat pasta)

1/4 c. Olive Oil

4 Cloves Fresh Garlic- chopped finely

1 c. White wine

1/2 tsp Red Pepper Flakes

Littleneck or other small clams (Manilas, cockles etc.) scrubbed a little to clean them. I like 3 1/2 lb for 4 people. Don’t be stingy with the clams. After all, they are the main focus here.

3 Tbsp. Butter

Salt and Pepper to taste.

1/2 c.  Italian Flat Leaf Parsley

1 Lemon for garnish

Extra Virgin Olive Oil  for drizzle

Instructions:

Put oil in pan with chopped garlic

Cook a couple of minutes over med. high heat just to let garlic permeate the oil. Sit and do not brown or burn the garlic

Add the wine and red pepper flakes – Cook a couple of minutes.

Then add the clams turning the heat to high. Cover the pan immediately and cook until the clams open – about 8 minutes. They will release a delicious broth which will flavor your sauce.

If larger clams are used –leave cover on a couple more minutes.

When ready – remove any unopened clams and discard them as they may be dead. Use only the clams which have opened.

TASTE and add salt and pepper as needed

At this point add 3 tbsp. butter. Let the butter melt and stir in.

Add the sauce to the drained pasta and toss. Taste again for seasoning.

Sprinkle parsley over the top.

Slice the lemon very thin into rounds and then cut the rounds in half  – like 1/2 moons and throw around on top of pasta – as many as you like.

Drizzle liberally with Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Stick a fork in it – it’s DONE!

To Serve: Have some crusty Italian bread on hand with this dish. You’ll need it. It has great “dunkability”!  My father, Attilio, would surely have a small supply of red pepper flakes on the side to add to his dish – delicious – but not for the faint of heart.

Vino: As with most seafood , I recommend a Falanghina with the Linguine Alle Vongole , but a Pinot Grigio would  be lovely as well.

PARLA COME MANGI!

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Food Photos By Tommy Hanks Photography

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PIZZA — THAT’S AMORE!!

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Buon Giorno!

Looking for that great new Pizza Recipe? Perhaps Pizza Dough?

When it comes to PIZZA, the feeling of most aficionados is best described by Dean Martin in his infamous song. Indeed – That’s Amore!

Italians, Americans, – let’s face it – the whole world is in love with PIZZA!! The international favorite! This is the Italian standard that everyone can relate to on some level. This is the Italian dish that probably started as mere sustenance and became a craze worldwide. There is probably not a city of stature in the world without a pizza joint – New York’s Little Italy, in my opinion, being the best of the best in the USA in that arena.

To illustrate, here is my husband, Tom, enjoying a slice in the heart of this famous arena of Italian food. Street food is king in Little Italy, and there it nothing quite like it anywhere.

Tom in Little Italy

Dating back to ancient times, many existing cultures served pizza in some form and prepared it with the hot stone method that has returned to us in our modern times. Traditional pizza, as we know it today, using the tomato, which was previously believed to be toxic in earlier centuries, had its origins in Naples, Italy, native land of my father, Attilio. (He would tell you that most good “eats” got their start in Napoli!) Pizza, thought to have originally evolved as a staple among the poorer classes, would fall into the category of what my mother, Loretta, called “peasant food” – food simply prepared, with simple ingredients, and enjoyed without thought to class and rank. (Read more about Attilio and Loretta at Linda’s Italian Table click here ) Pizza has evolved into many forms today from the sweet and fruity to the savory and spicy and sometimes to the very unlikely in terms of toppings.

I remember pizza growing up as the “Saturday Night Special”. My parents would either make their own dough or short-cut it by procuring it from the reliable Dirienzo Brothers Bakery in my hometown, Binghamton, New York. The preparation for their dough was very simple: flour, yeast, salt, water with 2 rounds of rising. After the second rise they rolled out the dough on their tiny round kitchen table. I loved to be around for this. It was truly a family affair with everyone gathering around to watch and throw in his or her preference as to what should be included in the toppings– and then the agonizing wait for the finished product. Do you have a pizza story? I would wager there are many.

Pizza is not just the “Saturday Night Special” anymore, making its way into even the most sophisticated of cocktail menus. It happens to be one of my favorite cocktail appetizers when cut in little squares with endless imaginative toppings from mushrooms to salmon and caviar. Pizza, as an appetizer, is a great accompaniment to drinks, especially the MARTINI served “Dry as dust” as Nora Roberts wrote in “Morrigan’s Cross”, and in particular – my personal choice, Tom’s Bada Bing Bada Boom! Click here for recipe

I thought it might be fun to discuss a more unusual version of pizza and mix it up a little. Today we’ll explore PIZZA WITH ARUGULA, SAUSAGE, SUN DRIED TOMATOES, AND GOAT CHEESE – red, white, and green for the Italian flag!!

I can’t say Arugula without smiling and thinking of Steve Martin in “My Blue Heaven” where he speaks of “A-ROO-gula” and pronounces it a “veg-et-a-ble”! Nutritionally speaking, Arugula is a source of protein, thiamin, riboflavin, Vitamin B6, minerals and a good source of dietary fiber.

This delicious pizza is kind of a take-off on the tradtional dish, “Pasta with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe”, found on many Italian restaurant menus. Here we substitute the light, tender, and peppery Arugula for the bitter Broccoli Rabe (the rabe is an acquired taste I have found).

And now we begin either by purchasing a perfectly fine dough at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods or another of your favorite places — OR MAKING YOUR OWN!

SING IT, DINO! Click here for a treat!

PIZZA DOUGH

(courtesy of Mama Loretta with a slight twist from me!)

Makes 4 loaves of pizza dough for a thinner crust – 1 to use – 3 to freeze! (Makes 2 loaves if you like a thicker crust.) There is nothing like craving pizza and being able to go right to your freezer for a loaf of dough just waiting for you!

Each loaf will also make 2 individual “pizzettes”.

7 cups Flour (Loretta used all purpose flour and it is just fine!)

1 envelope dry yeast dissolved in 1/2 c. lukewarm water

5 tsp. sugar

2 tsp. salt

2 c. hot water

1 Tbsp. olive oil

Put flour, sugar, and salt in large bowl. Make well in center. Add yeast/water mixture, then, the hot water & oil.

Mix with hands until dough pulls together to form a lovely ball of dough.(You can also use a food processor or dough hook – but I love getting my hands in it like Loretta did!) Knead and rub a couple of drops of oil over ball. Let rise in a bowl rubbed with a few drops of oil for 2 hours in a warm place. Mom used to put a towel over the bowl and put it in the oven – not heated.

After the first rise, it’s “aggression time”. Punch that sucker (aka ball of dough!) down like it was your worst enemy and give it a quick knead. Ahhh – stress reliever!

Now place the dough back in the bowl to let rise one more time for about another hour. Then divide to form 4 balls (loaves) and chill to use or freeze for later.

When ready, roll out or stretch your dough on a floured surface to your desired shape and thickness – round if using a stone. Use your fingertips to assist in shaping. Lift it, turn it, shape it.

I like to use the pizza stone method which I think provides a crispier crust. I discuss this here.

Preheat the stone at 450” for about 15 minutes until crust is crisp and golden or a little longer depending upon your oven. Note – some like to bake their pizzas at 500 or 550. This is fine – but your cook time will be shorter.

When you are ready to add the pizza to the stone – sprinkle the stone with some cornmeal to keep the pizza from sticking.

I use a peel to slide the pizza onto the stone which also has cornmeal on it under the raw pizza. I use the peel again to remove the cooked pizza from the stone.

Caution: Do not prepare your pizza and leave it sitting on the peel, or anywhere for that matter, to cook later. Your crust may become soggy. Always rub the dough with a little olive oil before topping, as this will help to seal your crust and inhibit any sogginess. Then add your toppings and pop the pizza into the oven immediately.

PIZZA WITH ARUGULA, SAUSAGE, SUN DRIED TOMATOES AND GOAT CHEESE

(aka: Not Your Mother’s Pizza)

TOPPING:

4 Cups fresh Arugula

3 Tbsp Olive Oil

3 cloves garlic

1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (depending on your palate)

Salt and pepper to taste

2 links Italian sausage (I like to use 1 mild and 1 hot) each link about 5 inches

8 Sun Dried Tomatoes packed in oil and sliced in strips

1 c. grated Fresh mozzarella (fresh a must – buffalo all the better)

3 oz. Goat Cheese

While preheating the stone, heat the garlic cloves in the oil til golden and add the arugula, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Gently toss until arugula is just wilted (just a couple of minutes) and covered in the flavorful oil. Remove garlic cloves.

Remove the sausage from the casings in small pieces about an inch wide and saute in a tbsp of olive oil til just browned. Discard the casings, reserve the sausage, as in “leave the gun, take the cannoli”.

ASSEMBLY

Put about a tablespoon of olive oil on your rolled dough and spread around with your fingers. Add the grated mozzarella by sprinkling around the dough. Distribute the arugula next and follow with the sausage pieces, sun dried tomatoes, and goat cheese broken into small bits. A sprinkle of good Parmigiano-Reggiano is always a nice finish.

Bake in 450 oven for about 15 minutes or until bottom is crispy and golden.

Serves about 4 depending upon the appetite.

I suggest serving this with a St. Bernardus ABT12 Belgian Abbey Ale – a strong full bodied, flavorful Belgian ale which stands up well to the strong flavors in the pizza – Not Italian – but good anyway! Of course, a fine Chianti is always a good pick.

PARLA COME MANGI!

Reminder: Be sure to visit my website,Linda’s Italian Table, for the new Recipe Of The Month!

Food Photos by Tommy Hanks Photography

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