JUNE 3, 2013

MEET THE SOUS CHEF

Chad Colby
CHAD COLBY, EXECUTIVE CHEF,
CHI SPACCA

Colby became a chef because of a soccer injury. While on the mend, the executive chef of Chi Spacca turned to the Food Network for entertainment, tuning in to watch Mario Batali in action. "Back then," he recalls, "it was like going to culinary school."

In a full-circle development, Colby eventually joined the opening team of Osteria Mozza, owned by Nancy Silverton, Joe Bastianich and, that's right, Mario Batali. Chi Spacca is the trio's latest project, which showcases Colby's charcuterie. At home, however, Colby craves pasta, like this recipe for Spaghetti with Clams.


Photos: Jesse Narducci
MAKE THE
Spaghetti with Clams
Spaghetti with Clams

YIELD

2 generous servings

TIME

Prep: 30 minutes

Cook: 15 minutes

Total: 45 minutes

INGREDIENTS

Fresh clams, 2 pounds (preferably Manila clams)

Good-quality extra-virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons

Garlic cloves, 6 medium (thinly sliced)

Whole dried chile, 1

Kosher salt, 1 tablespoon plus ½ teaspoon

Dry white wine, 1 cup

Dry spaghetti, 8 ounces

Fresh oregano sprigs, 4 (leaves picked from the stem and roughly chopped; about 1 tablespoon of roughly chopped leaves)

DIRECTIONS

1. In a large bowl of cold water, add the:

  • Clams

Let the clams soak for 20 minutes. Use a soft-bristled brush or rough-textured clean kitchen sponge to scrub the clams. Place the clams in a colander and rinse under cold running water. Set aside.

While the clams soak, fill a large pot with cold water and bring to a boil over high heat.

2. In a large skillet set over medium-high heat, add:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sliced garlic
  • Dried chile

Cook, stirring often, until the garlic is golden, about 30 seconds. Season the garlic with:

  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

Add the:

  • Scrubbed clams
  • Dry white wine

Cook until the clams open, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn off the heat and use the slotted spoon to transfer the clams to a large bowl.

3. Once the pot of water is boiling, add the:

  • Remaining 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • Dry spaghetti

Cook the spaghetti for 3 minutes less than the recommended al dente cooking time (for example, 6 minutes for pasta that cooks to al dente in 9 minutes). Set ½ cup of the pasta cooking water aside, then drain the spaghetti into a clean colander. Transfer the spaghetti to the skillet with the white wine sauce.

4. Cook the spaghetti in the sauce over medium-high heat, stirring often, until the broth absorbs into the noodles and the spaghetti is al dente, 3 to 4 minutes (add a little of the reserved pasta cooking water if needed). Turn off the heat, and to the skillet, add the:

  • Cooked clams
  • Oregano leaves
  • Remaining 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Divide the spaghetti and clams into 2 bowls and serve with an extra bowl on the side for the clam shells.

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STEP BY STEP

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TIPS & TECHNIQUES

Choosing Your Noodle

All dry pasta is not created equal, suggests Colby. Look for spaghetti that is bronze-die-extruded. This process, in which the pasta dough is pressed through a bronze die, results in a noodle with a rougher, sandpapery exterior that sauce clings to. Some brands Colby likes include Rustichella d'Abruzzo, Latini and Benedetto Cavalieri.

The Myth of Salt

Beginning cooks are often instructed to make the pasta cooking water "as salty as the sea," but Colby says that's a mistake. "You want to make it as salty as a good bowl of ramen or soup," he advises. "The noodle will absorb some of the saltwater, which will help season the finished dish. But you don't want to oversalt the water, which will result in too-salty pasta."

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Your ingredients

Fresh clams, 2 pounds (preferably Manila clams)

Good-quality extra-virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons

Garlic cloves, 6 medium (thinly sliced)

Whole dried chile, 1

Kosher salt, 1 tablespoon plus ½ teaspoon

Dry white wine, 1 cup

Dry spaghetti, 8 ounces

Fresh oregano sprigs, 4 (leaves picked from the stem and roughly chopped; about 1 tablespoon of roughly chopped leaves)