Spent a week at the not so popular part of Italy – Cilento. Italy remains our preferred holiday destination in Europe, mainly due to the food and the passionate restaurant operators. Unfortunately Agropoli (the nearest biggest town in Cilento) and Cilento area are not the richer part of Italy and we had some limited choices of where to eat out. At the end we decided to save the eating out to Naples and we did most of the cooking, like this spaghetti frutti di mare, ourselves in the little nice cosy house we had rented.
We discovered more Barilla than we had seen in the Netherlands and were trying out a few of the egg pastas. We drove every 2-3 days through the 20 minutes winding mountain road to Agropoli for fresh seafood. We were expecting really cheap seafood but it was not THAT cheap. The fishes looked unfortunately small, probably due to over fishing in the Med sea, or the bigger ones were sent to bigger cities for better prices. What they do have are a lot of fresh looking seafood: prawns, squids, octopus and clams. So here comes the seafood pasta, spagetti frutti di mare.
- 1 squid – medium size body about length of your palm, gut and clean it, cut into suitable pieces.
- 10 prawns – medium size, cut open the back with a pair of scissors and take out the vein, leave the head on
- 500 gram of vongole – depending on the size, you will get about 30-40 clams from 500 gram. Discard the bad ones (dead, opened or the ones that remain open when you try to close it), rinse the remaining and leave them in salt water (should taste as salty as sea water). Repeat 2-3 times. I usually do this at least 30 minutes before cooking. Through this process hopefully the clams will “split/breath” out some of the sand in the shells.
- 2 cloves of garlic – finely chopped
- 4-6 small ripe, sweet plum tomatoes – cut into small pieces
- Half a cup of parsley – finely chopped
- Olive oil
- Water and salt – for the pasta boiling
- Black pepper
- Half red chili (optional) – deseeded and chopped finely
*note: timing is key in cooking seafood, get a kitchen timer (or your iphone) ready.
- Heat up a pan, throw in the vongole (clams), cover and cook for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat when the clams are opened. Separate the meat and shells, leaving about 10-12 attached with shells (for decoration on the serving plate), keeping all “juice” from the cooking process in a bowl.
- Boil sufficient water for your pasta cooking (we used Barilla spaghetti no5), make sure you add some salt into the boiling water. Bear in mind that the “vongole’s juice” (that will be added to the dish later) is already salty, so you might want to reduce the salt in pasta cooking. I would suggest 2 liters water with 1 flat spoon of salt. TIME the pasta cooking exactly according to the instruction on the packaging.
- At 3.5 minutes before the pasta is done boiling, heat up a pan (medium high heat) with 2 tablespoon of olive oil.
- At 2.5 minutes before the pasta is done add the prawns, cook for 1 minute and turn. At the same time, add the squid, garlic and tomatoes (and red chili, optional).
- 30 seconds before the pasta is cooked, add the vongole and half of its juice and 1-2 tablespoon of pasta boiling water into the pan. Taste the sauce to see if it’s too salty or not, add more “vongole’s juice” if need to or dilute with water.
- Drain the pasta when ready and add the pasta into the pan, sprinkle the chopped parsley on, turn of the heat and mix well.
- Serve the pasta frutti di mare on a warm plate and sprinkle some black pepper if desired.