You can chop the garlic if you like, but I prefer slices. They are mellower in flavor and become part of the texture of the dish. In most pasta dishes the idea is to make just enough sauce to lightly coat the pasta. When clam sauce is served with linguini, however, there should be a little extra broth.
Other hard-shelled clams, such as manila or butter clams, make a good substitute, but I love little neck clams for this sauce.
With this dish, as with many pasta dishes using long, thin pasta shapes, I prefer to cook the pasta very al dente and finish it in the sauce. It’s a balancing act—determining when the pasta is ready and the sauce is the right consistency—but you can always hold the pasta or the sauce for a minute or two, while the other one catches up.
- 3 cups broccoli florets
- 36 littleneck clams, scrubbed and shucked, juice reserved
- 1 pound linguine
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 6 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- ¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
Cook the broccoli in a large saucepan of salted water just until it is softened a little bit, about 2 minutes. Drain it well and cool under cold running water. Drain completely, then chop the broccoli coarsely.
Shuck the clams, reserving the liquid. Strain the liquid, chop the clams and combine them with the liquid.
Bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil in an 8-quart pot over high heat. Stir the linguini into the boiling water. Return to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook the pasta, semi-covered, stirring occasionally, until not quite done al dente, about 6 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat ¼ cup of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Scatter the garlic over the oil and cook, shaking the pan, until golden, about 2 minutes. Add the blanched broccoli and crushed red pepper and cook until the broccoli is sizzling, about 2 minutes. Pour in the clams and their liquid and bring to a boil. Ladle about ½ cup of pasta cooking water into the skillet. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat so the sauce is at a lively simmer. Cook until the broccoli is tender, about 4 minutes.
If the skillet is large enough to accommodate the sauce and pasta, fish the pasta out of the boiling water with a large wire skimmer and drop it directly into sauce in the skillet. If not, drain the pasta, return it to the pot and pour in the sauce. Bring the sauce and pasta to a boil, stir in the parsley and check the seasoning, adding salt and crushed red pepper if necessary. Cook, stirring, until the pasta is done and there is enough sauce to coat the pasta generously, but still form a small pool in the bottom of the pan, 1 to 2 minutes. Divide the pasta among warmed bowls, spooning some of the sauce in the pan and drizzling some of the remaining olive oil over each serving.