Spaghetti With Clams Is The Ultimate Summer Dinner

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Spaghetti With Clams Is The Ultimate Summer Dinner

As soon as summer arrives, bringing bright, sweaty days and quiet, balmy nights, I start craving seafood. Freshly shucked oysters with an ice cold glass of beer, shrimp cocktail with a horseradish-heavy cocktail sauce, Maine lobster dipped in luscious yellow butter—I love it all. But for me, there’s one summertime seafood staple that rises above all the rest: spaghetti with clams.

Spaghetti with clams—or spaghetti vongole, which is the dish’s name in its native language—hails from Naples, Italy, a city perhaps better known for its legendary pizza. But maybe spaghetti vongole, the city’s signature pasta dish, deserves just as much hype.

At its core, spaghetti with clams is an incredibly simple dish, although variations abound. Clams, of course, are of the utmost importance, as is the spaghetti. Beyond that, you don’t need to have much in your pantry to throw this pasta dish together: olive oil, garlic, chile, parsley and some salt will do the trick, though white wine and lemon can add a nice touch of acidity. But a short list of ingredients doesn’t mean the dish is short on flavor; these ingredients come together to create a whole that’s more than the sum of its parts.

Why is spaghetti with clams such an ideal summer dish, you ask? Because it offers a balanced bite that walks the line between hearty and light. Pasta is generally regarded as a heavier, more filling ingredient, so pairing it with fresh ingredients like clams, lemon and parsley lightens the dish, making a plate of pasta seem supremely appetizing even as temperatures soar.

It’s also one of the easiest pasta dishes to prepare, even if you don’t have a lot of experience cooking seafood. Fry some garlic and chile in oil, then get ready to steam. Clams are a personal favorite—and not just because they’re one of the most sustainable seafood options available—but because they’re also incredibly easy to cook. Steam them in some olive oil and white wine, and they’ll literally tell you when they’re cooked through because their shells will pop open, revealing the meat inside. Add your cooked pasta to the pan, let the flavors meld together for a minute or two, then throw the fresh parsley on top. It’s a dish that feels sophisticated but is, in reality, surprisingly easy to make.

Spaghetti with clams is best enjoyed outside, somewhere with a salty ocean breeze, but I can attest that it’s just as delicious at the table in your un-air-conditioned apartment, with the windows wide open and a fan blasting warm-ish air on you while you eat. Paired with a refreshing glass of wine or a cold beer straight from the bottle, you have a transcendent summer meal, a savory memory that will melt in your mind among countless summer ice cream cones and sticky fruit popsicles.

Get your hands on some fresh clams this summer, or if you don’t have a solid source of seafood where you live, buy some fancy clams in a tin. Toss them with some pasta and parsley, and make your summer dinner dreams come true.

Samantha Maxwell is a food writer and editor based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @samseating.

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