For the longest time, my girlfriends and I have been talking about having a pierogi party. I will be hosting it in two weeks (stay tuned), so I made sure to steal the pasta roller attachment from my parent's house when I was home for Christmas. I couldn't let it sit there, all sad in the back of a cabinet, so I decided to pull it out for a cooking night with Brad.
Because this was right after the polar vortex went through DC, I wanted to make a stick-to-your-ribs pasta with cream sauce. I immediately thought linguine and clams with fresh pasta and clams steamed in the cream sauce. I've never really worked with clams before, but I grew up on mussels and thought I could handle the mollusk.
When I grabbed the clams, I talked with the fish guy to make sure I didn't need to do anything other than scrub the clams and do the typical flour and water soak to get out the grit. I threw out any that are open or have cracked shells (only one, I was impressed!). Pro tip: when you're bringing home the clams (or any other live shellfish) make sure you get ice in the bag and poke a few holes so the clams can breathe!
For the pasta, I used a simple recipe from Kelsey Nixon and added a bunch of meyer lemon zest to the dough. This may have been a bit of overkill on my part for a dish with such a flavorful sauce, but I would love to try the pasta with just a simple garlic oil and some grated parmesan on top. I rolled the pasta to the 5 thickness, cut the rolled pasta into noodle sized sheets, and then cut on the wide noodle attachment.
There are a few things that you need to remember to make successful homemade pasta. When the dough is coming together, you want it to be a little tacky but never sticky. Add a little more flour if the dough verges on sticky. Always rest your dough for at least 30 minutes before rolling. When rolling, keep everything well floured to avoid having to reroll (which I seem to forget once every time I'm making pasta). And make sure to dry the pasta for about 30 minutes before cooking up al dente.
The cream sauce started with bacon, melted leeks, garlic, red chili flakes, and more lemon zest. A glug of dry white wine and equal parts chicken stock and cream were allowed to simmer for fifteen minutes. Then the clams joined the party! I got about 20 clams between the two of us, so we just nestled them into the sauce. They opened up after about 5 minutes of steaming under a lid.
Once the clams were open and pulled from the sauce, we cooked the pasta al dente. It took about 2-3 minutes with our recipe and noodle thickness. The cooked pasta then got tossed in the cream sauce with a little pasta water to thicken it up. The sauce was finished with juice from the meyer lemon, fresh grated parmesan, and flat leaf parsley.
We served up the pasta in the pan we used to cook everything, just nestled the clams back in and topped with the cooked bacon, more parsley and parmesan, and a little bit of white pepper to finish. Brad declared it was one of our best, and I have to agree! Just quality harmonious ingredients used simply, my favorite way to cook.