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Fishing runs deep in my family

Passport & Plate - Spaghetti Con Vongole: Not just another pasta dish!

Italy | Thursday, 13 March 2014 | 5 photos

1 pkt spaghetti
1 kg fresh vongole (clams)
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon of salt
1/4 cup olive oil
2L of water
fresh sprigs of parsley (home grown is best)

Prepare clams:
Remove any chipped pieces of shell and make sure the vongole shells are clean from seaweed, small crabs etc.

Bring salted water to the boil and then add the spaghetti.
Be sure to turn the pasta until the heat of the water rises again to a simmer, so that the pasta does not stick.
While the pasta is boiling, you can make the vongole sauce.

Heat olive oil in the pan on low heat and add the chopped garlic. Be sure not to burn it. Your aim is only to release the flavour of the garlic into the oil.
Add the vongole with their juices into the pan and cover to “steam” for 5 minutes with a lid (or in my case, tin foil).

Return to the pasta:
Try the pasta. It must be firm “al dente”.
Before draining the spaghetti, set aside 1/4 of a cup of the hot pasta water and add it to the pan with the steaming vongole. This is the secret to juicy, flavoursome pasta sauces.
Drain the spaghetti.
Turn off the heat to the pan.
Add the spaghetti to the vongole and be sure to mix through and coat the spaghetti with the vongole and sauce.
Turn out the spaghetti con vongole into a large platter or share dish.
Chop the parsley. Garnish the dish with a sprinkle of the fresh chopped parsley.

NB: avoid the temptation to sprinkle parmesan cheese as it is traditionally not done when pasta is served and prepared with a fish based sauce. Nor is the use of lemon traditionally used on seafood when served and prepared as the main ingredient on a pasta served.

Share it with your family and friends.

The ingredients may be few and the technique simple, but the flavour - divine!

While I may have been raised as a blonde haired, hazel eyed "true blue Aussie", I dragged my partner with me and went in search of my heritage – the genetic code that compelled me to grow radiccio |ra-di-ch-yo| in my Elwood apartment balcony box before I even left!

So, in 2010, I took a hiatus from my PhD research in the “Philosophy of Fishing” and found myself at the very heart of Europe in the middle of nowhere. Once known as the city where civilisation ended and barbarity began, Trieste is boarded by the once was imperial Austria, the Balkan karst of Slovenia and her now sovereign government, Italy. Where East once met West, the Triestines are neither Italian, Austrian nor Slovenian. They are simply Triestini! A multicultural people, forever independent in their hearts and always ready to celebrate it. Mind you, I only realized this once I arrived. For me, Trieste was always the place in which my parents were born and my grandparents fled from, after a war that completely devastated a city they were only ever partial to by birth rite.

I took a bus ride, ten kilometres from my father's birth city, to Muggia - the fishing town my mother was born in. I bought some fresh fish from a man that looked just like my cousin back home in Melbourne. That afternoon I learned that I was in fact the great grand-daughter of a fisherman and was the product of sixteen generations of fishermen dating back to the 15th century. I learned this from my mother’s cousin in the piazza by our family’s fishing boats, over a bowl of spaghetti con vongole. I was in a time warp so familiar yet so foreign all the same. Over lunch, I saw my mother laughing and chasing her sisters through the piazza, I witnessed my Nonna arguing with her mother-in-law from the third floor of their apartment and could hear my Nonno singing folk songs out of the osteria (bar). So this is not just another pasta dish!, but a porthole into a part of my story.

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