I have tasted my first pasta vongole in the trip to Palermo last December. Nothing fancy but so tasty! It was at the cheap local food restaurant (or I think stall would be a more suitable word) where we had most good food in Palermo.
It’s authentic restaurant, they don’t speak English, there is no fancy decoration but you see lots of people eating there all the time. It’s located at some not nice looking street and if you are going there and want to find this restaurant, you may message me and I will find out the exact location for you.
What you do at this restaurant is that you get to choose your antipasti; I like the variety. Then you choose a pasta of your choice between the very simple olio aglio, vongole or fish sauce (I think), and you pick what type of seafood you want to be grilled or fried. Not sure they have a wine list, I think you can only choose between white or red wine.
We tried a couple of fancy restaurants but they are very disappointing. This is the most worth while place to go in Palermo in my experience. We went back two times in our 5 days trip.
My favourite fish monger in Maastricht has vongole most of the time. They have become my favourite because they are the only stall that sells seafood on Wednesday and on my last visit, they two guys was dancing some “I got a fillet (feeling)” for me when they were going to fillet the fish for me.
The vongole costs Euro 10 per pack and one pack was just nice to cook pasta for two.
So what do you need to make pasta vongole:
- Vongole – as many as you like! We had about 35-40 for two persons
- Garlic – as much as you like! I love garlic so I had used about 7-8 cloves, finely chopped
- Few stalks of basils or parsley – we ran out of parsley, so we used basil instead
- Olive oil – a lot
- Black pepper
- 1-2 big tomato or few cherry tomatoes (optional) – cut into dice
- Chili (optional) – you can use the chili padi or the big chili, chopped finely
- White wine (optional) – choose a non oak white wine, 1/2 a glass
After you have picked the good ones, soak them in cold salty water. I have added 3 tablespoons of salt into my big bowl of water. This is to fake the sea water so the vongole will breath and when they breath, they throw out the sands and dirt in them. Leave them soaked for 15 minutes, rinse and soak again. Repeat this for 3-5 times until you see that there is no more sand/dirt in the water.
Now, heat up a pan with some olive oil, put the vongole in and cover the pan for a few minutes.
After about 5 minutes, you will see the vongole opens up (cooked). When 80% of the vongole are opened, remove them from heat and leave the “juice” and olive oil in the pan.
Separate 60% of the vongole from the shells and leave some in the shells for decoration on plates later.
Cook your pasta in water (with 1 tablespoon salt and some olive oil) for 8 minutes.
Re-heat the pan with the “vongole juice” in it while adding the garlic. Taste the “sauce” and see if it’s salty. This will be your base for the sauce. Add in white wine and tomatoes (if you want to) and let the tomatoes soften in low-medium heat. High heat might dry the sauce too quickly.
When the garlic and tomatoes are softened, add in vongole and chili and also some water* from the boiling pasta pot. Add the cooked pasta, mix well. Turn off the heat, garnish with teared basil/parsley and sprinkle some black pepper on top. Serve on plate.
*Because I have already added some salt into the water used to boil pasta, usually I don’t need to add more salt into the sauce. Some like their pasta dry (like Willem) and some prefers it more saucy (like me). If you like it more dry, add only half a cup of water from the boiling pasta water, if you like it more saucy, add a full cup of water. Anyway, if you accidentally added too much water, you can always boil it away just make sure you add the vongole after you are happy with the sauce so that the vongole will not be over cooked.