Light yet robust, spaghettini—as opposed to larger spaghetti, briny textural shellfish, fresh tomato, a zing of chilli and lots of garlic, not to mention a generous splash of crisp Italian Pinot Grigio bring you summer on a plate.
I must admit, I’m usually a bit reluctant to cook with wine. Although it brings so much extra flavour and helps with texture, I always wonder if the wine wouldn’t be better suited to my glass than a pan.
But when you’re making a dish like spaghettini alle vongole, a drop of good-quality Italian wine makes a huge difference to the food.
Dishes that are quick to cook—like spaghettini alle vongole—really respond well to a splash of vino.
Wine’s acidity helps delicate ingredients stay tender and to maintain moisture. For this dish, it means while you’re waiting for the more robust ingredients to cook, things like the spring onions and the vongole won’t turn to mush or rubber.
And this dish does cook really fast.
Once you’ve got everything prepped—garlic, chilli and spring onions chopped, and the vongole washed—you’re looking at about 10-15 minutes from stove on to plates filled.
How To Make Spaghettini Alle Vongole like a pro
Santa Margherita—one of Italy’s most recognised vineyards—has teamed up with famed Italian chef Silvia Colloca, who has shared a couple of her favourite recipes that work perfectly with their wines.
This recipe serves two with a bit left over and is a wonderful dish for a romantic meal at home.
The speed it all comes together means you’re not wasting time in the kitchen you could be spending enjoying each other’s company.
Here’s what you need:
– 2tbsp olive oil
– 3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
– 3 spring onions, roughly chopped
– 1 long red chilli. roughly chopped
– 200ml Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio
– 1/4 cup baby capers, rinsed
– 500g cherry tomatoes
– 700g vongole or pipis, well washed
– 200g spaghettini
– 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Here’s what you do:
Before you start chopping: have a saucepan of hot, well-salted water ready to when you’re ready to cook the pasta.
1. Heat up on high the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan with high sides. Fry the garlic, spring onion and chilli until the garlic starts to become golden and fragrant.
2. Add the shellfish, tomatoes and capers, then pour the wine in and cook for about two minutes until the alcohol smell has dissipated.
3. Cover the pan with a snug-fitting lid and allow the shells of the vongole to open – about 2 minutes. Extract the shellfish from the pan and set aside in a bowl. Fish out any that might’ve detached from the shells too. Discard any unopened shellfish.
4. Bring the pot of water to a rolling boil and drop the pasta in and cook for four minutes, to just before al-dente. Do not strain the pasta water, you’ll need it.Remove the spaghettini with tongs and drop into the sauce, adding a little pasta water.
5. Stir the pasta and sauce gently for a couple of minutes and watch how the pasta soaks up the juices. Add more pasta water if necessary.
6. Turn off the heat and return the vongole to the pan along with any juice left in the bowl (this is all flavour!) and gently combine. Scatter with parsley, a garnish of extra sliced chilli, a drizzle of olive oil and a crunch of pepper. Serve immediately with the rest of the Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio.
Spaghettini alle vongole is a Neapolitan classic from Campagna in southern Italy. It’s a fresh simple dish of chewy yet fine pasta and these delicious little clams that bring texture and gentle briny notes that remind you of the sea.
Santa Margherita’s Pinot Grigio is such a good choice for this dish. It’s light enough not to take over though it has enough body to still make a difference to the food. It’s also lovely to drink while you’re eating.
This also takes the mystery out of trying to match the food with the right wine, though we’ve got some good tips on that here!