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Spaghetti alle vongole is an Italian dish. The name translates into "spaghetti with clams." This is one of many pasta dishes that originates from Napoli. The dish typically uses fresh clams and can be prepared with or without tomatoes. It usually is prepared during the summer when the ingredients are fresh.
In Italy, spaghetti alle vongole can be prepared in rosso or in bianco. The in rosso version adds tomatoes to the spaghetti and clams. The in bianco version is made without tomatoes. If the cook decides to add tomatoes, tomato sauce can be used, or crushed tomatoes in olive oil might be added. Along with the spaghetti and clams, other common spaghetti alle vongole ingredients include garlic, parsley and olive oil.
Cooks recommend using the smallest clams possible, because these stay tender and cook quickly. Carpet shell and English surf clams are often used. Other possible substitutions in place of these clams are mussels, cockle and razor clams. If fresh clams are not available, then canned clams can be used. In the Italian region of Liguria, only baby clams are used in the dish.
Fresh clams must be soaked in water for at least a half an hour to clean out any grit or sand. The clams are cooked with white wine or olive oil until the shells have opened. They also can be steamed. The open clams are served with the spaghetti, with the clams left in the shells. Cooks have deemed this the best way to ensure that the clams are fresh.
Travelers to Italy can expect to see spaghetti alle vongole on restaurant menus during the summer. These warm months are when fresh clams can be found. The flavor of the dish relies on fresh clams. Although canned clams can be used, the flavor is different.
Spaghetti alle vongole originate from Naples and is the city's signature dish. Gourmets consider pasta as a specialty of the Neapolitan cuisine. Some of Italy's best pasta is made just outside Naples in Gragnano.
Pasta is considered a rural dish by many Italians. This style of Italian food mixes components found in the rural areas with the seafood collected off the coast. Many visitors to Italy make sure to order spaghetti alle vongole at least once during their stay.