We love vongole and we love risotto, so risotto alle vongole hits all the right buttons. I opted to prepare it in bianco, without tomato, to allow the vongole to shine. The clams come with their own built-in stock, which I mixed with home made fish stock to add complexity and depth. As with many Italian recipes, this only requires a few ingredients. You could add half a teaspoon of chili flakes if you like it hot, but otherwise I wouldn’t mess with this.
For 2-4 servings
1 kilo (2.2 lbs) live vongole
200 grams (1 cups) risotto rice, I prefer carnaroli
1/2 litre (2 cups) homemade fish stock
180 ml (3/4 cup) dry white wine, divided
1 clove garlic
1 Tbsp minced fresh flat leaf garlic
extra virgin olive oil
Allow the vongole to purge themselves in a litre (4 cups) of cold salted water for an hour, then rinse them with clean water. Discard any vongole that remain open when exposed to fresh unsalted water. The water should be as salty as the sea, so about 30 grams in a litre or 4 teaspoons of table salt for 4 cups. Stir well until the salt has dissolved. The vongole will only purge themselves in salt water, because fresh water will kill them through osmosis.
Put the vongole in a pan with 120 ml (1/2 cup) of the white wine. Add the stalks from the parsley, if you have them.
Cover and bring to a boil over high heat.
Cook until the vongole have opened. If some won’t open, discard them.
Drain the vongole and collect the liquid.
Filter the liquid using kitchen paper and combine it with half a litre of fish stock. Keep the stock hot but not boiling.
Heat two tablespoons olive oil in a wide shallow thick-bottomed pan. Peel the garlic and slice it thickly. Tilt the pan and gently deep fry the garlic to flavor the oil. The garlic should not become too dark, only golden. Discard the garlic as soon as it is golden.
Add 200 grams of risotto rice, and toast it over medium-high heat for a couple of minutes.
Deglaze with the remaining 60 ml white wine.
Stir until the wine has evaporated.
Add a ladle of hot stock.
Regulate the heat such that the rice keeps simmering. Stir until the stock has been absorbed, then add the next ladle of stock. Keep stirring and adding stock until the rice is almost al dente, 16 to 18 minutes. You don’t have to stir all the time; it is the most important immediately after adding new stock (to distribute it evenly) and just before adding new stock (because that is the best time to get the rice to release starch). Switch to boiling water if you run out of stock.
Take the vongole out of their shells, but reserve some vongole in the shell for garnish.
When the rice is al dente…
…add the vongole, a tablespoon of minced parsley, and a final ladle of stock.
Stir to mix. Turn off the heat, then allow to rest for a couple of minutes before serving.
Serve on preheated plates.
This is great with many dry Italian whites, like a Vermentino or a Verdicchio. If you add chilli flakes, it is better to use a more southern white like a Vermentino di Gallura from Sardinia or a Pecorello from Calabria.
Melanzane abbottonate, or Mulinciani ‘mbuttunati in Sicilian, literally means “buttoned up eggplants”. The slit that is made in the aubergine to insert the filling looks like a button hole. The eggplant is filled with pecorino cheese (preferably caciocavallo from Sicily if you can find it), mint leaves, and garlic, and cooked in a tomato sauce.