Pasta with Clams and Roasted Fennel
Who doesn't love pasta with nice, little clams? Crazy people, that's who.
Although I love a straight up vongole with nothing but olive oil, garlic, chili flakes, wine and clams, sometimes I want to kick things up a bit. I was craving a good pasta with clams but I was also craving roasted fennel- what to do? When I thought about it, it made sense to just throw some fennel in there. Once I got used to the idea of adding fennel, it made it feel less taboo to add some diced tomato as well. At this rate, I will be adding meatballs and smoked trout the next time.
Pasta with clams and roasted fennel
1 head fennel, quartered
400g dried spaghetti
1/4 cup olive oil
1 bls butter
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
pinch chili flakes
salt and pepper
1kg or 2 lbs of small clams
1/4 cup white wine
1 small tomato, diced
handful fresh italian parsley, chopped
roasted fennel, sliced
fennel fronds, chopped
to roast the fennel ahead of time:
preheat oven to 400F
rub the fennel slices in enough olive oil to coat, and sprinkle with kosher salt and place in a heavy baking pan (I do mine in my cast iron skillet). Roast on the second to bottom rack until totally brown and caramelized, about 30 minutes. I turn it over at that point, let it cook for another 5 minutes and then remove from the oven but let it sit in the hot pan and it will continue to brown the bottom while your prep your pasta ingredients. When it cools enough to handle, slice the fennel and set aside.
As far as the clams go, try to buy them the day you are going to cook them or the night before but not sooner than that. As soon as you get them home, place them in a colander and put the colander in a bowl. Cover with a damp tea towel or paper towels that have been soaked in water and wrung out. Don't let them stay in the plastic bag and don't keep them all day in water. I rinse them a few times and then let them sit in a bowl of cool water for about 20 minutes before they go into the pan.
Bring a big pot of salted water to a boil and add the pasta. It will take about 8 minutes to cook so you have to work fast and have all of your ingredients prepped and standing by.
heat your olive oil and butter over med low heat in a sauté pan that is big enough to accommodate the finished dish. Add the garlic and the chili flakes and a good pinch of kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper and cook slowly for 4 or 5 minutes but don't let it get brown. Drain your clams and add those along with the white wine and the tomato and cover and let cook for a few minutes until all of the clams have opened up. By this time your pasta should be just about done so take it out of the water and drain it (don't rinse it, just drain it) and dump the pasta into the clams.
Add the parsley, the sliced fennel and the chopped fennel fronds and give the pan a few good tosses, let it cook for another minute so that the pasta can soak up some of the delicious juices and plate it up. If it seems a bit dry, drizzle a bit more olive oil over the top before you plate it.