Back in the day before the Internet cookbooks were the primary source for new recipes. For me, anyway. An early and reliable favorite was Fannie Farmer. While I derived endless entertainment from the name and the images it conjured, I found all the basics needed for good ol’ American cooking and plenty of exotic recipes, to boot.
One of latter was the recipe for Spaghetti with Clams. The balance of fresh or canned clams and loads of sautéed chopped garlic spiced up with red pepper flakes in a creamy sauce over spaghetti became a signature dish for me. That’s where the bookmark ribbon was parked for years.
Recently I found myself with most of the ingredients and a Jones for that garlic clam combination. But it was a hot day and I didn’t feel like the heavy creamy aspect of the Fannie Farmer recipe. I found a couple of intriguing alternate recipes online including one from Rachel Ray who melted a couple of anchovies into the sauce. From those inspirations I came up with a simpler, lighter and possibly healthier version that turned out to be just as satisfying — if not more so — than the original.
Bring a pot of salted water to boil and cook pasta to a couple minutes shy of al dente.
While the pasta percolates, heat olive oil in a wide sauté or everyday pan.
Sauté garlic in oil 1-2 minutes; do not brown. Add butter to melt, along with red pepper flakes and Italian seasoning.
Add clam juice and wine to interrupt the sautéing of the garlic. Add fish sauce and lemon zest or lemon pepper. Bring sauce to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
When the sauce is reduced by half or so, add clams and cook long enough to warm through.
Add cooked and drained pasta, mix well with the clam sauce and cook a couple more minutes. The undercook pasta will absorb the flavors of the sauce on its way to al dente.
When the pasta is cooked to al dente, remove the pan from the heat and serve on warm plates. Top with chopped parsley.
Serve with a dry white wine like an Orvieto or a Falanghina.
*If you can’t find Red Boat fish sauce, sauté a couple of pieces of anchovies rinsed of any salt in the olive oil while sautéing the garlic. Rachel Ray says to melt the anchovies into the oil. The anchovies add an additional dimension of flavor and allows you to reduce or eliminate salt in the recipe. Red Boat Fish Sauce is made of anchovies and sea salt.