Sautè di Cozze e Vongole
Updated: Apr 6, 2022
"In Italy they add work and life to food and wine."
Robert Leach (1941-2018)
This delightfully simple and elegant dish of sautéed mussels and clams came from a lady called Tatyana who has one of my favourite pages on Instagram. She is originally from Russia but, having lived in Italy for 17 years, the dishes she posts are almost exclusively classic, traditional and regional Italian fare which she cooks at her home in the Marche region on the Adriatic coast.
It typifies everything I love about the recipes she posts, exuding simplicity and understatement and true respect of good ingredients... the sort of food that warms the cockles of a Seafoodie's heart. Which is a convenient pun as the dish would be perfectly suited to cockles instead of or in addition to the other shellfish.
Although "Taty", as she calls herself, describes cooking as her hobby, her dishes belie an experienced and accomplished cook. This is witnessed not least in the delicate way a small number of ingredients are employed. In this particular recipe witness how garlic and chilli are used only to scent or infuse the oil in which the remainder of the dish is prepared. This deftness of touch hints at a confidence in the principal ingredients being fresh and of such high quality as to need only embellishment rather than flavouring.
This dish is now firmly lodged in my repertoire. To enjoy to the fullest, good bread and wine are the winning formula, Taty's advice, but I agree!. As they say in Italy, Приятного аппетита!
As I mentioned above, one of the things I like so much about this recipe is the way the garlic and chilli are used to infuse the oil in which the rest of the dish is cooked. However, that said, don't underestimate how much heat a chilli can impart into warm oil in a short space of time. So if the type of chilli you are using is a particularly potent variety, or you don't favour too much chilli heat in the finished dish, take care how long you sauté the chilli for.
Removing the empty half-shells from some of the mussels is not essential, but does bring an appealing balance to the presentation and affords more room on the plate. A slice of lemon finishes off the display nicely.
Sautè di Cozze e Vongole
Ingredients (Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as a starter)
1 kg mussels, cleaned
500g clams, cleaned
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus a glug
2 garlic cloves, peeled and cut into 4-5 pieces each
1 red chilli, cut into 2 or 3 pieces
½ small onion or 1 shallot, finely chopped
125ml white wine
100g cherry tomatoes, halved
Freshly ground black pepper
A few picked leaves of flat leaf parsley
Slices of lemon, for garnish (optional)
First open the mussels. Heat the glug of olive oil in a saucepan large enough to take the opened mussels, and for which you have a lid. Tip in the mussels and cook over a high heat, shaking the pan occasionally, for 2-3 minutes until the mussels have just opened. Collect the mussels in a colander, and when cool enough to handle, discard any that have not opened and remove the empty half-shell from some of the mussels (see recipe intro).
In a sauté pan, heat the 2 tbsp olive oil with the garlic and chilli pieces and cook over a low to medium heat for a minute or so to infuse the oil. Discard the garlic and chilli pieces.
Add the chopped onion or shallot and sweat for a couple of minutes without colouring. Add the cherry tomato halves, cook briefly then pour in the wine and turn the heat up to high. Bring the wine to a boil and allow it to reduce a little (say, by a quarter to a third) then tip in the clams and let them cook in the broth until they just start to open (a lid on the pan will speed this process up). At this point put in the prepared mussels and allow them to warm through as the clams finish opening.
Season the sauce to taste with ground black pepper then stir in some of the parsley leaves, reserving some for a final garnish along with the lemon slices if using. Serve immediately.