Looking to get rid of any eggplants taking up space in the fridge? Here is a great dish that looks complex, but I promise is easy and serves as a great special to impress friends and family. Its works any time of the year and is a good introduction into working with clams. Most of the time spent will be roasting your ingredients and for this recipe, we are roasting a whole bulb of garlic and one eggplant.
Since we are working with clams, I decided to pair it with a squid ink pasta to add that extra fish flavor and authenticity. Before I came to Europe, I ate pasta that was yellowish or multicolored. If you had intensely colorful pasta, it was because you were making macaroni art for your parents in kindergarten.
The first time I ever heard of black ink pasta was during an episode of the Sopranos; when crew visits Italy. How memorable was the scene where Paulie sifts through the black spaghetti asking the Italian waiter for “gravy” (referring to tomato sauce) instead? It was then I was intrigued to taste such a dark dish but knew it would not be easy to find the ingredients in a regular American supermarket.
Made with seppia or cuttlefish ink, this type of spaghetti is now more popular and readily available in specialty stores or Italian markets. The brand I use for this recipe is called Garofalo, a well-known brand of pastas found here in Spain. This dish is Mediterranean to the core from the sun dried tomatoes to the white wine and clams. You will taste all the flavors of the sea, so let’s get into it!
1 bulb of garlic
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 cup (35 g) of sundried tomatoes
1 lb (½ kilo) of clams
150 g Squid Ink Spaghetti (or a pasta of your choice)
3 tablespoons of butter (50 g) of butter
3 teaspoons of salt
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 bottle of white wine
1 cup (8 oz) of pasta water
Chopped chives for garnish
If you have not already cleaned your clams, you can do so by soaking them in salted cold water in a metal or porcelain bowl, not plastic. Then set the oven to 175 C (or 375 F).
Cut off the tops of the eggplant and garlic. Then cut the eggplant in half and place on a metal tray. Drizzle some olive oil and sprinkle salt on top of both the garlic and eggplant before placing in the oven. The ingredients will take about 45 minutes to one hour to roast. If the ingredients have already softened before the allotted time, you can take them out of the oven to rest.
While your roasted vegetables are resting, fill a large pot of water to a boil adding a teaspoon of salt. Once the water comes to a boil, add about a quarter of the spaghetti from the packet. (This spaghetti can be quite filling and expands larger than normal spaghetti in size.)
Stir the spaghetti until it is completely submerged and set the timer two minutes less than the recommended time. In this case, it is boiling for only six minutes to keep it al dente.
In a separate pan, heat the butter and olive oil on medium heat (setting 6 on an electric stove). Once the butter is melted, add 1 teaspoon of salt, lemon, and two cups of wine.
Allow the wine to start simmering and then add the clams cooking for the next seven minutes placing the lid on top of the pan.
While you are waiting for the clams to open up, blend the eggplant and garlic with a teaspoon of salt in the food processor until smooth.
At this point you should check on your pasta and remove once the time is up and set aside, drizzling a little olive oil to avoid sticking. Save a cup of pasta water for later!
Check on the clams and remove any clams that have opened in a separate bowl. If there are still some clams closed shut and the wine has evaporated, add about a cup more and continue steaming for another five minutes.
After the time is up, any clams that are still shut should be thrown away. These clams are dead and poisonous to eat. Remove all the clams and add the sundried tomatoes, eggplant puree, black pasta, and a cup of the pasta water. Turn the heat up to medium high for three minutes constantly stirring.
Once the texture of the pasta is to your liking, turn off the stove and pour into a bowl adding the clams, chives, and parmesan, or in my case Grana Padano, for garnish.
A couple things to note about cooking with clams is soaking them before cooking. I had a mishap where I decided to soak the clams in salt water overnight in a plastic container, unfortunately, killing the majority of my clams. Clams should really be bought and cooked the day of to ensure freshness.
If your clam shells are wide open before cooking and do not close to your finger’s touch, you can discard those clams as a safety precaution. It is very important not to eat dead clams. I had a close family member once collapse on the dinner table eating a closed clam. Luckily, he survived to see another day. As long as your clams start to open after you start cooking them then they are safe to eat!
This recipe not only challenged my confidence and technique in making clams but improved it for the better. It took a couple tries before I got the proportion and timing right, which is why it is so exact in taste and preparation. This recipe is still one of my favorites because every bite feels like a return to summer dining beachside drinking wine at a local chiringuito.