The name of this type of dry pasta derives directly from its shape, i.e. its resemblance to a squid cut into rings and the word “calamaro” in Italian meaning “squid”. The seafood sauce to dress it is then completely in keeping with the fishy theme. I dedicate this recipe to my friend Jack.
Ingredients: fresh mussels and clams, fresh tomato, olive oil, garlic, chilli, parsely leaves.
I realise that no weights and measures are provided but that is because the latter depend on how many people are going to be partaking of this lip-smacking dish. My rule of thumb is 200g fresh clams per person for 100g pasta per person. Since I was adding 1kg of mussels, I toned down the amount of clams. For the garlic: about 1 clove per person or as preferred — it depends on how pungent the garlic is.
Here are the scrubbed and cleaned mussels …
And here are the clams … One solitary tomato. I dipped the tomato into boiling hot water for about a minute … then removed it and peeled off the skin. I squeezed out the pips and cut the tomato into cubes (concassé).
Set aside for now. Place the clams in a large saucepan or pot and cover with a lid. There is no need to add any wine or other liquid. Turn on the heat and wait for the clams to steam open … it doesn’t take long. Switch off heat. Use a pair of tongs to remove the mussels from the pan and set them in a bowl. I tried removing the mussels with my bare fingers, stupidly, and lived to rue the experience: wow! hot! When you remove the mussels with the tongs, shake off any excess liquid back into the saucepan. Here is the liquid that the mussels exuded. It’s very tasty and is essential to the dish’s success. It is necessary to pass the liquid through a sieve, however, in order to get rid of any nasties that lurk about whenever mussels are concerned. Set the liquid aside for now. I washed out the saucepan and now covered the base with plenty of olive oil and a solitary, rather sad looking chilli. That’s because some members of my family are not partial to chilli, so I have to go easy there.
Switch on the heat and tilt the pan, so that the garlic concentrates in this little lake of olive oil, and therefore takes less time to cook to perfection … which means … until it turns golden in colour. Do not let it brown or burn, please! If you are not comfortable with the idea of tilting a large saucepan, you could always cook the garlic in a very much smaller milk pan and then, once the garlic is cooked, transfer it to the larger saucepan.
Add the clams and the chopped tomato … Cover with a lid and wait for the clams to steam open.Now put the pasta into the boiling, salted water. Most dry pasta takes between 9-10 and 11-12 minutes to cook but always check on the package instructions.
The mussels had cooled down by now and so I could use my bare fingers now to snap some of the shells in half. I totally removed all of the shells from about half of the mussels …. And kept the other half on their half shells. This is purely for decorative purposes but it works. I also removed the shells from some of the steamed clams for the same reason. When the pasta had about 3 minutes to go before the end of cooking time, I removed the pasta from the boiling water and transferred it directly into the saucepan containing the clams. I then poured nearly all the liquid from the mussels that I had strained previously. I turned on the heat very high and gave it a good stir …
And I placed the lid on top to speed up the process of the pasta absorbing the liquid from the mussels. I removed the lid and added some of the cooking water now (about 1 ladleful) and stirred continuously until I deemed the texture perfectly ‘al dente’ and switched off the heat. Always remember to taste! I added the shelled mussels and the shelled clams and gently mixed them in. And I placed the mussels on the half shell on top, together with a scattering of parsely. I then drizzled a tiny amount of olive oil to finish it off. All right that’s enough now, I have to go … they’re waiting for me at the table and I don’t want this to go cold!