Spaghetti with Clams in Toasted Almond Roasted Red Pepper Pesto Recipe

Spaghetti with Clams in Toasted Almond Roasted Red Pepper Pesto
Serves 4 to 6

Haul home some fresh clams and pull a jar of sumptuous pesto out of the fridge—or whip it up in little more than 5 minutes. Here we have clams with a twist of a new taste. This pesto holds its bright flavor for several days, which allows you to throw this tasty clam pasta together in no time at all.
12 ounces (340 g) spaghetti
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup (80 ml) dry white wine
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped parsley
¼ teaspoon crushed hot red pepper
3 pounds (1360 g) littleneck or cherrystone clams
Toasted Almond-Roasted Red Pepper Pesto (page 00)
1/3 cup (40 g) coarsely grated Asiago cheese, optional
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until just al dente, 9 to 10 minutes. Reserve about ½ cup of the cooking water before the draining the pasta.
Meanwhile, in a large deep skillet or flameproof casserole, heat the olive oil. Add the wine, 2 tablespoons of the parsley, and the hot pepper. When the wine reaches a full boil, add the clams, cover, and steam over high heat until they just open, 2 to 4 minutes. With a strainer or large slotted spoon, transfer the clams to a bowl; cover with foil to keep warm. If any clams have not opened, give them another minute or two. Discard any that still don’t open.
Stir the pesto into the liquid left in the pan. Add the cooked pasta and toss to coat. Simmer for 1 to 2 minutes, adding the reserved cooking water if needed. The dish should be a little saucy.
Put the clams in a large serving bowl. Pour the pasta and sauce over the clams, add the cheese if you are using it, and toss to mix. Garnish with the remaining tablespoon of parsley.

Toasted Almond and Roasted Red Pepper Pesto

Makes about 1 ½ cups (350 ml)
With jarred roasted red peppers, this piquant pesto comes together in a flash. Since both the almonds and garlic can turn from toasted to bitter in seconds, pay close attention for the first 5 minutes. For lunch or as a first course, allow 2 ounces (55 g) uncooked spaghetti and ¼ cup (60 ml) pesto per serving. Toss the pasta with just enough pesto to coat and dollop the remainder on top. Pass extra cheese on the side. Oh, is this good spread on a sandwich!

1/3 cup (80 ml) extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup (50 g) slivered almonds

5 garlic cloves—4 thickly sliced lengthwise, 1 coarsely chopped

3/4 cup (115 g) coarsely diced (1/2-inch) roasted red peppers 

2 tablespoons torn basil leaves

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

¼ teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon crushed hot red pepper, or more to taste

2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano Reggiano and/or Pecorino Romano, plus more for the table.

1/3 cup (80 ml) pasta cooking water

In a small heavy saucepan, warm the oil over medium heat until it begins to bubble. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the 4 sliced garlic cloves to the hot oil and cook until they are just golden brown around the edges, about 3 minutes. Remove the garlic to a small bowl. 

Add the almonds to the hot oil and cook until they are very lightly toasted, about 2 minutes. Remove the nuts when they are barely darker than beige; they will continue to cook. Add to the garlic. Let the oil cool slightly.

In a blender or food processor, combine the roasted peppers, raw garlic, roasted garlic and almonds, basil, lemon juice, vinegar, salt, hot pepper, and 2 tablespoons grated cheese along with the pasta water. Blend until everything is finely chopped.

Note: This pesto keeps well in a closed container in the refrigerator for at least 3 days.

From Pasta Veloce by Frances Mayes and Susan Wyler, Photographs by Steven Rothfeld, Abrams 2023.