PASTA ALLA CHITARRA

Saluti a tutti dall’ Italia e buon anno!

Cheers to everyone from Italy, and happy new year!

During the holidays, we focus on the important things in life: cooking with family and cooking what is fresh! We are back in Italy this week drinking in the local wines, soaking up the pasta sauces with homemade crusty bread, and taking in all the traditional recipes from our family’s Christmas and New Year’s Eve parties.

Today, our day started by driving to the sea to search for fresh fish for our evening meal. When we got to the beach, there were almost no fishermen out on the boardwalk selling seafood. Usually, the street is full of local vendors, but early this morning it was a little stormy, so only the bravest (or craziest?) of the town's fishermen were out on the water. Lucky for us, those few brought back some delicious looking clams and mussels. We grabbed a bunch, scooted home, plucked the fresh parsley from the window sill, and borrowed a few fresh spicy peppers from our Aunt and Uncle next door.

Outside our home in Southern Italy, the parsley plants are still growing strong and--most importantly--the spicy pepper plants (peperoncino) are still alive and well. So, deciding what to have for dinner becomes easier when the perfect ingredients are fresh and right in our backyard!

Tonight, we'll make “Pasta alla Chitarra con Cozze e Vongole” (clams and mussels over chitarra pasta). For this traditional holiday fish recipe with a few twists, we collaborated with Gregorio’s Sister, Genny. Pasta alla Chitarra is a thick pasta that gets its name from the tool used to cut the long strips with squared off edges. It has a coarse edge, which is great for soaking up all the juice from the clams and mussels. The recipe is simple, but when those flavors combine, they lift each other up and become amazing all together.

As always, we're thrilled to share a recipe from our Italian family with everyone back in the States. If you try it out, let us know how it goes! Hashtag your photos with #dinnerinthefield, so we can see how your family created Pasta alla Chitarra con Cozze e Vongole.

RECIPE SERVES 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound chitarra pasta (or linguini if you can not find chitarra)

  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  • ¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 cup white wine (Pinot Grigio)

  • 1 bird’s eye chilies, minced

  • 20 little neck clams, cleaned

  • 20 mussels, cleaned

  • Sea salt and white pepper

Directions for Pasta:  

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite.  Remove from the heat and drain all but 1 cup of the pasta water.

  2. Drizzle pasta with 2 tablespoons of oil, mixing the pasta so it does not stick together. 

Directions for Sauce:

  1. Add remaining olive oil, parsley, garlic and chili to large skillet and cook on medium heat for 2 or 3 minutes stirring frequently.

  2. Add the clams and the mussels, white wine, and a large pinch of salt and pepper to the pan. 

  3. Simmer until the liquid has reduced by half (about 3 minutes) and then cover with a tight fitting lid and let cook until the shellfish have opened (about 5 to 8 minutes). Discard any unopened shellfish. 

  4. Remove the shellfish from the pan using tongs.  De-shell half of the mussels and half of the clams, saving the meat in the bowl with the remaining shellfish and discarding the extra shells. It is nice to have some of the seafood in the shells for the presentation and some with no shell so they are easier to eat.

  5. Simmer the remaining cooking liquid in the pan for 4 to 5 minutes to concentrate the flavor.  

  6. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  The sauce usually needs about 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. 

  7. Add the chitarra pasta and shellfish to the sauce and continue to cook for 3 minutes all together, so the pasta absorbs some of the sauce as it finishes cooking with the shellfish. 

Once everything is ready to go, make sure to serve and eat the pasta while it’s hot!  Pasta waits for no man, so encourage your guests to start eating once it hits the table.  When it comes to pasta, minutes matter and really make the difference between a good dinner and a dish that becomes a family favorite. 

Please let me know how your pasta turns out.  If you have any questions, feel free to reach out with comments here on the recipe page, on Facebook, or on Instagram.  I will get back to you with tips and tricks ASAP. Buona cena!