Every now and then R and I decide to make something a little more gourmet, and this was decidedly the case when we went ahead with this dish. I was a bit concerned because it looks complex (it isn’t) and because R’s mum was coming for lunch. I needn’t have worried, she’s still raving about it! There’s only one prize in Italy more prestigious than a Michelin Star. One judge more fear-inducing than even the most highly rated of food critics. That is the opinion of an Italian mother… and this time we most certainly nailed it!*
It’s actually quite simple. The most important thing to do is to make sure to get the razor clams in advance if you’re using fresh, as they need to sit in salt water for a period so that they spit out the sand they contain. The last thing you want is a gritty plate of pasta.
I’ve also just realised that some of you may be wondering what on Earth Bottarga is! Good question. It’s a truly delicious, salty, fishy delight made by salting, curing and compacting the roe of the grey mullet in Sardegna or from bluefin tuna roe in Sicily. I used Sardinian bottarga in this recipe, but I can’t imagine it being ruined by using the Sicilian version. Sicily doesn’t ruin anything. Ever.
You will need:
1 large zucchini
1 clove of garlic
200 ml dry white wine
Salt and black pepper to taste
The zest of one organic lemon
We boiled both the zucchini and the potato in salted water, and sautéed the razor clams in garlic, olive oil and white wine with a generous sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper. It’s a testament to how fresh the clams were that every single one of them opened up beautifully and we didn’t have to throw even one away… PSA, never forcibly open and eat a bivalve mollusc that doesn’t spontaneously open upon cooking! It means it was probably dead, and you’ll probably end up with a nasty case of the trots. Lovely.
We then used the immersion blender to puree the zucchini, adding in some of the juices from the sautée to thin it out. We then cooked the pasta in plenty of salty water, removed the clams from the shells and, when the pasta was not quite fully cooked we drained it and added it to the sautéed clams with the remaining liquid to bring to that perfect al dente bite.
To serve, pour the puree onto the plate and give it a (careful!) wallop from the bottom to get a nice even circle. Serve the pasta with the clams on top, using what the Italians call a “coppapasta” but what looks to me exactly like a dough cutter, to get that perfect restaurant circle. Finish off with finely grated bottarga and fresh lemon zest to lift the flavours and bring them all together.
Best served with: A medium-bodied, mineral white. We went with a good Greco di Tufo, and it was just perfect.
With love, from Italy
*Disclaimer: I am in no way suggesting that my Mother-in-law is a scary lady. She isn’t and I’m actually quite lucky considering some of the horror stories I’ve heard from friends! What she is, like most Italian ladies of her generation, is a wonderful home cook, so cooking for her can be intimidating.