Clam Sauce with Tomatoes

This has been in my repertoire for years.  It's my ace in the hole when I don't have a thing in the frig or freezer and I need to have dinner on the table in a jiff.

The ingredients are all staples that can be found in your pantry or frig - canned clams, canned diced tomatoes, a box of thin spaghetti, anchovy paste, parmesan and parsley.  You can get a tube of anchovy paste or a jar of anchovy fillets and keep them in your refrigerator pretty much forever.  Since my kids live off parmesan, we always have a wedge in our frig and grate it with one of these:  Zyliss Classic Rotary Cheese Grater.  Added bonus:  the fact that they have to grate it themselves rather than just spooning pre-grated parm out of a tub helps with portion control!  And if your vegetable crisper is empty, an alternative to fresh parsley is parsley flakes (found in the spice section at your grocers) which can be added to the sauce, but I think it goes without saying, don't sprinkle it on top of your finished dish!

The secret technique in this recipe is to boil the pasta until only half done, then finish cooking it in the tomato sauce where it will soak up the liquid for added flavor.

Clam Sauce with Tomatoes
Adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan 
Serves 4-5

In a large skillet, cook over medium heat until garlic is a pale gold color:
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, chopped fine
red pepper flakes, to taste 

Add to skillet and cook for a minute or so:
splash of white wine
1 teaspoon anchovy paste or one anchovy fillet, minced finely

Then add to skillet:
1 - 28oz can diced tomatoes, including juices
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley (or alternatively 2 teaspoons dried parsley)
drained juices from 2 - 6.5oz canned chopped clams (not minced, pieces are too tiny), reserve the clams to be added later

Stir and adjust heat so sauce simmers gently for 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook only until half done:
1 lb spaghettini (preferred) or spaghetti

Test after 4-5 minutes by biting into one strand.  It should be slightly stiff or hard in the center and the core should still be a chalky-white.

Reserve about 1/2 cup of the pasta water.  Drain pasta and immediately transfer to skillet.  Continue cooking, turning and tossing the pasta until it has soaked up most of the liquid.  Test the pasta again for doneness to your liking. Taste the sauce and add salt if needed. If the pasta needs more cooking and you are running out of liquid, add some of the reserved pasta water to the skillet.

When the pasta is done, add:
reserved clams

Toss thoroughly to warm up clams, then turn off heat.  Serve at once with:
grated Parmesan
chopped parsley

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