(Pasta) Rags to Riches

Today's guest blogger is The Cowgirl Gourmet's cowboy, who about four times a year feels compelled to share an antecdote and a recipe with you...though he's always an active behind-the-scenes critic and participant in this blog. Take it away, David.

Having grown up on the waters in New England, I have been eating clams, mussels, lobsters and fish since I was a child. I can remember being five or six years old and my Aunt Karen teaching me how to eat a lobster like a real New Englander which means you get every little morsel out of the crustacean.

As a teenager I would go down to our beach and dig up clams and mussels and have my step-mother cook them. That was the deal. I got them, she cooked them.

Since then I have fished all over the world and eaten the freshest fish right on the deck of the boat while it's still moving. The fish, not the boat...

While I do love all kinds of seafood, one of my all-time favorites is spaghetti and clams. Whereever I go, I always ask a local, "Who's got the best spaghetti and clams in town?" I have tried many pasta and clam recipes over the years and have probably eaten thousands of restaurant versions. Traditionally, it's served with linguine and known as linguine al vongole (clams).

As you can imagine, I've had some really great linguine al vongole (Esca in New York is one of the best) and some really sad plates of linguine al vongole. After surviving it all, I think I have come up with the best and easiest recipe yet.

This time, however, I decided to use what is known as "pasta rags," which are irregularly shaped and torn up pieces of lasagna noodles. I also use Dreamfields pasta which has only 5 net grams of carbs, which I am not-so-happily restricting.

But you really can't tell the difference between Dreamfields and the really good authentic Italian pasta. And at least it's not that gooey-sticky-gloppy pasta alternatives that pervade the healthy pasta scene.

I have also made this with whole clams and then with chopped clams because I can't decide which version I like better. So instead of making such a critical decision, I decided to use both.

So, here's my healthy take on one of my favorite dishes that I have appropriately titled, (Pasta) Rags to Riches.

Buen provecho!

Pasta al Vongole
For years, The Cowgirl Gourmet (www.thecowgirlgourmet.blogspot.com) has enjoyed eating this special dish created by the cowboy

Print recipe

We like to break up the lasagna sheets into rags, though traditionally this is prepared with linguine. You can use homemade pasta, store bought pasta or Dreamfields pasta, which has something special in it to produce only 5 net carbs. Though we do think you should use only fresh clams along with chopped clams. Canned clams are strictly forbidden!

Serves 2

2 T. extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, chopped (or more garlic if you are like me)
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
18 clams in the shell, manila or little necks
1/2 lb. chopped clams and the juice
1/3 cup white wine or whatever you might have leftover in the fridge, we sometimes use Prosecco or even a flat champagne...it's all good for cooking
1 1/2 Tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 T. butter, unsalted
Pinch of Italian seasoning
Kosher and Maldon salt and fresh black pepper, to taste
Pasta of your choice, or broken lasagna noodles

Fill your spaghetti pot with water, place over high heat and cover. Once the water begins to boil, add a generous amount of salt to the water and then add the pasta, stirring well. Let the pasta cook until al dente, stirring frequently. Cooking times will vary depending on the pasta you use, so cook according to the directions on the package. When the pasta is done, drain well, drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat.

While you are waiting for the water to boil and the pasta to cook, in a large soup pot over medium heat, add 2 T. olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the chopped garlic and stir to coat.

I think you can never have too much garlic,
though David disagrees.

Cook for a few minutes and watch carefully so you do not burn the garlic. Add the red pepper flakes and stir.

Add in the whole clams, a dash of salt and pepper and cover to steam, cooking for about 4-6 minutes until the clams begin to open, stirring every 2 minutes. Once they start to open, add the white wine, chopped clams and the juice, more fresh black pepper and stir to combine. Cover, and let it cook down about 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Briney fresh clams from Groomer's Seafood in San Antonio

Clams and garlic.

Clams, garlic, white wine and chopped clams.

After the clams are cooked, add parsley, butter and a pinch of Italian seasoning, stirring well. Cover once again until the butter melts. Clams should all be open by now. Stir thoroughly, taste and add a little more salt and pepper.

Spoon generously over pasta, top with more fresh parsley, a shake of red pepper flakes, a pinch of Maldon salt and pepper.

Pasta rags with clams and chopped clams!

Serve with crusty bread and a big green salad and dig in!
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