This dish comes together in a fluid dance of easy-to-choreograph movements IF (and only IF) you have all your ingredients prepped (chopped/diced/measured) ahead of starting. It moves decently quickly and is moderately time sensitive, so this is really when it pays to arrange your mise-en-place (“everything in its place”) before anything gets rolling. Then it can be the kind of thing you quickly scurry away to prepare, returning with steaming bowls that you plunk down all non-chalantly like you didn’t just present everyone with a goddamn masterpiece of a meal.
Tip: Getting a rougher-textured linguine (like an artisanal kind, something made in Italy perhaps) will help the light, glossy sauce stick to the noodles, coating them more pleasingly.
BA’s Best: Linguine Vongole
Taken directly from BA’s Best arsenal
2 tbsp kosher salt + more to taste
12 cloves of garlic, divided
4 oz (~½ large loaf) sourdough or country-style bread, crusts removed
¼ cup + 2 tbsp olive oil + more to serve
2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
2 anchovies (tinned)
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes + more to serve
1/3 cup dry white wine
2 lb fresh clams, rinsed and scrubbed (not with soap – OBVIOUSLY)
1 lb linguine, preferably artisanal or rustic
½ cup finely chopped flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
2 tbsp unsalted butter
Pour 10 cups of water into a large pot and stir in the kosher salt. Bring to a boil while you work on everything else (if it boils before you’re ready to cook the pasta, just keep it on low so it’s ready to crank back up easily). Meanwhile, pulse 3 of the garlic cloves in a food processor until chopped. Tear up the bread and add to the food processor, then pulse several times until fine crumbs form. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large Dutch oven (or another large, deep pot) over medium-high. Once heated, add the garlicky breadcrumbs to the hot oil and cook, stirring often, until the crumbs are golden-brown and crisp, ~5-7 minutes. Transfer the crumbs to a bowl, season with a pinch of salt and stir in the lemon zest. Set aside.
Wipe out the same pot that you toasted the breadcrumbs in and pour in the ¼ cup olive oil to heat over medium. While the oil heats, slice the remaining 9 garlic cloves as thinly as you possibly can, using a very sharp knife. Add the garlic to the hot oil and cook until just turning golden around the edges (this happens quickly!) Add the anchovies and red pepper flakes and continue cooking until the anchovies are mostly dissolved and the garlic is golden (but not burnt). Quickly stir in the wine and simmer until only a few spoonfuls of liquid are left in the pot. Carefully place the clams in the pot and gently toss to coat with the garlicky liquid. Cover the pot and cook until the clams have opened, ~5-7 minutes (any clams that are beginning to open can get a couple extra minutes of cook time to fully open; any that still haven’t opened at all should be thrown away;). Uncover the pot and transfer the clams to a bowl, leaving all liquid in the pot. Tent the clams loosely with foil and set aside.
Bring the salted water back up to a boil if you turned it down. Once boiling, add the pasta and cook for 5 minutes (it will be undercooked). Before removing the pasta from the water, scoop out 2 cups of the starchy water from the pot. Use tongs to carefully transfer the pasta to the Dutch oven with the clam liquid. Add 1 cup of the reserved pasta water and bring to a boil. Cook, tossing CONSTANTLY and adding more pasta water if needed to loosen things up. Cook until the pasta is tender and the sauce is thick, glossy, and coating each noodle (~5 minutes). Remove from the heat, add chopped parsley and butter, stirring until the butter melts into the sauce. Sprinkle about half the breadcrumbs into the pasta and toss to combine. Taste the pasta and season with more salt if needed. Divide the pasta among 4 shallow bowls and top with the reserved clams. Scatter the remaining breadcrumbs over each serving along with a drizzle of olive oil and more red pepper flakes, if desired. Be smug forever.