One of my favorite pasta dishes is the combination of clams and green cauliflower (romanesco). It is both healthy and delicious and a more delicate version of the equally delicious but more strongly flavored combination of broccoli and mussels (about which I will write shortly).
For 2 servings as a full meal or 4 servings in a larger menu
1 kg (2.2 lbs) clams such as cockels or vongole
400 grams (14 oz) florets of romanesco (green cauliflower, substitute with broccoli but that pairs better with mussels)
150-200 grams (1/3 – 1/2 pound) dry flat short pasta such as orecchiette or farfalle
1 glass of dry white wine
extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic
ground chilli pepper
small bunch of flat parsley
Put about one liter (1 quart) of cold water into a bowl and add enough salt to make it as salt as the sea (3% by weight). If you have any actual seawater on hand, that would be even better :-) Put in the clams and let them do their thing for about an hour. If you bought fresh clams, they are still alive and they will clean themselves as you will see. This removes some sand and other stuff you’d rather not eat from the clams.
Meanwhile, cut the romanesco into bite-size florets and wash them.
After an hour or so, strain and rinse well with fresh water to remove the salt from the outside of the clams. The clams should all close in the fresh water. Discard those that don’t.
Chop the onion and the parsley stalks roughly (reserve the parsley leaves) and put into a put with the white wine.
Add the clams. Cover the pot and cook over high heat for a few minutes until the shells are open. Don’t cook longer than necessary, because that will make the clams tough.
Drain the clams and catch the clam ‘juice’.
Filter the clam juice using kitchen paper. (I use parts of an old coffee maker to do this, but any sieve lined with kitchen paper will do the trick as well.)
Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Do not add salt as there will be enough saltiness coming from the clam juice.
Cook the pasta all dente according to the instructions on the package and cook the romanesco florets in the same pot for 8-10 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat some extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan and add minced garlic and ground chillipepper. Sauté over low heat, don’t let the garlic turn golden (and certainly not brown).
Add the reserved clam juice and let the water evaporate over medium heat, stirring now and then.
Meanwhile, take the clams out of the shells. Discard the shells, onion and parsley stalks.
About 1-2 minutes before the pasta and romanesco are done, the liquid in the frying pan should be reduced sufficiently. Add the clams to reheat them gently over low heat.
Chop the parsley leaves to obtain 2-3 tablespoons.
Drain the pasta and add to the frying pan with the clams and clam juice. Add chopped parsley and mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Serve on warm plates.
Good with an unwooded and fruity but full-bodied chardonnay or similar dry white wine.