How can you accurately express eating spaghetti alle vongole, without having a single bite? It is kinda like a forever summer rendezvous on a plate. It provides complete satisfaction. It is easy going and undeniably pleasurable. You sinfully and soulfully indulge in it, up until the very last bite. And, just like any summer romance, you can only wholly enjoy it a few months out of the year. It is the Mediterranean sea in a dish – clean, salty, and seductive.
And, it is simply six ingredients:
- vongole veraci (clams typically found along the coast of Southern Italy, particularly near Napoli and the Amalfi Coast)
- extra virgin Olive Oil
- pasta, preferably spaghetti or linguine (gnocchi is a zesty alternative)
- white wine
- a bit of parsley
- 1 peperoncino*
**The dish itself has enough salt, given the fragrant salinity of fresh vongole!
The dish is undeniably gorgeous! Or maybe I am just a nutzo foodie. Streaks of violet stain the inside of the clam shells, making for a naturally dazzling contrast to the parsley garnish. These clams are unique beyond the color of their inner and outer shell. Apparently, they are identified by their separated siphons when fresh. A siphon is that tongue like thing that sticks out of a clam. It is quite sad, though, since overfishing can make for a scarcity of these clams. Fortunately, they are not highly exported. If there was international demand, we would destroy this summer eating rendezvous altogether.
The tool to finding a good plate of spaghetti alle vongole is not much different than searching for any other solid local plate of yum. If the restaurant is by the sea, full of boisterous locals, it should be absolutely delicious. There can be mishaps. If a restaurant screws up, it reflects on the kitchen because it is such a simple dish. It is the seafood counterpart to spaghetti al pomodoro. If the kitchen can’t get that dish right, all hope is completely and utterly lost.
Below is a little food porn, including some spins on the dishes. My go to spots for spaghetti alle vongole are found particularly in the regions of Lazio and Campania, where I have spent most of my time. It is also where vongole veraci are most commonly found!
BUT, WHAT DO YOU DRINK WITH THESE BEAUTIES MAY YOU ASK???
Very simple. Go local lovelies.
It comes down to three types of wine:
Fiano (di Avellino) • Greco di Tufo • Falanghina
You want a wine that is high on acid and bright like the sun. It will cool down that killer summer sun and bring in the breeze. It will be the squeeze of fresh lemon on your delicious seafood feast.
Each of these particular wines have unique personalities that vary by producer. Each do possess some expression of the Mediterranean sea in the sense of a persisting minerality and a even sometimes a miraculous salinity. I love how clean and fresh a simple Greco is, which is my usual pair. Try a funky one from Cantina Bambinuto, a small all natural winery run by a killer lady winemaker. For more clean and traditional, San Salvatore 1988 pushes out a crisp and bright greco too.
Fiano has more body to it. I love Pierluigi Zampaglione’s skin contact fiano, which boasts a gorgeous copper color and zesty orange notes. Its an edgy new age version, but shows a whole new side to the grape. Or, try Ciro Picariello’s Fiano di Avellino DOCG. Really anything from him for that matter…
Falangina (pronounced with a hard g (like ‘ghee’) is maybe the simplest. Its bright and flowery, and sometimes can be found lightly effervescent. Its not exactly Chablis, but it is damn refreshing. De Conciliis, an incredible Aglianico producer, also makes a killer falanghina.
You can play with Northern Italian varietals, too. But, since this is a valued dish from the Neapolitan area, be kind and marry the dish with something local! If you are stubborn, I would suggest perhaps a Sardegnan vermentino. Good ones are top notch and mineral AF. I mean the whole island is practically a granite rock.
Oh a recipe? There are many. But I will share maybe my favorite recipe video for the dish solely because I find Gennaro Contaldo hilariously entertaining…
A presto ladies & gents!!