Give spaghetti a dose of dramatics with the addition of Nduja and squid ink
“Nduja is a soft, spreadable, incredibly spicy Calabrian cured pork sausage that brings an instant hot, savoury depth to any dish. Here it adds oomph to my favourite Italian pasta dish of spaghetti vongole.
I love the way it contrasts with the sweet, juicy clams, and seasons the dish with fiery chillies. I’ve used squid ink spaghetti because I’m a sucker for its added umami and dramatic darkness, but you could also use plain spaghetti or store-bought squid ink pasta.
If you’ve made bottarga butter, you could stir a knob of it through the pasta before serving for some extra boom!”
• 400g clams, cleaned
• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 banana shallot, finely chopped
• 1 large garlic clove, crushed
• 50g nduja, coating discarded
• 1 portion Squid ink pasta, or use shop-bought
• 50ml dry white wine
• 30g flat-leaf parsley, stems and leaves, washed and finely chopped
• 1/2 unwaxed lemon, zested and juiced
• sea salt
• knob bottarga butter (optional, see bottom)
1 Keep your clams in a bowl in the fridge with a damp tea towel over them. Before cooking, place the clams in a bowl of water under a gently running cold tap for about 10 minutes – this will encourage them to give up their grit.
2 Bring a large saucepan of very salty water to the boil. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a heavy-based frying pan and fry the shallot and garlic for a couple of minutes, until softened.
3 Add the nduja and cook, stirring, until it breaks down and melts into the shallot base, turning it red. Remove from the heat.
4 Cook the pasta in the boiling water until al dente. If you’re using home-made squid ink spaghetti this will only take 2 minutes. Drain, reserving about 1 tablespoon of the cooking water.
5 Return the nduja and shallot to the heat. Add the drained clams and white wine, and shake the pan to combine all the ingredients.
6 Cover with a lid and cook for a few minutes, until the clams have opened (discard any that are still closed) and the alcohol has cooked out.
7 Add the cooked pasta, parsley and the tablespoon of cooking water to the frying pan and toss everything together, so the pasta is cooked in the glossy emulsion. Remove from the heat and transfer to a large bowl.
8 Season with lemon juice and zest, drizzle with the remaining olive oil (or stir through the bottarga butter, if using), and serve, along with a bowl for the shells.
1 To make the bottarga butter, finely grate 20 g bottarga (or mince 8 anchovies) into a bowl, add 50 g of unsalted softened butter and zest of ½ a lemon, and mash together thoroughly.
2 Place 2 layers of cling film on a work surface, spoon the butter into the middle of it, and tightly roll, twisting the ends, so you have a cling film-coated sausage of butter. Place in the freezer to set.
Recipe courtesy of Rosie Birkett, extracted from A Lot on Her Plate.