Recipe + pairing | Julia Busuttil Nishimura's Spaghetti Alle Vongole

By Vinomofo
4 months ago
4 min read

There’s something about spaghetti alle vongole - almost as delicious to say as it is to eat. This recipe from Julia Busuttil Nishimura places simple ingredients as the stars of the show here, including a glass of dry white wine; sounds like the perfect excuse to crack open a perfect pairing, no?

Pairing tip: "The heartbreak of cooking with a decent wine is that you need to share some with the dish, but the beauty is that it’ll repay you at the table. The simple, fresh ingredients on show here would lead me to opt for a wine that’s going to bring something similar to the party - a fresh King Valley pinot grigio or Marlborough sauvignon blanc would be a fun match here. Otherwise you can do no wrong with the classic shellfish pairing of albariño or riesling." - Nick

Try this with:

Kilikanoon Mort's Block Riesling 2022

We’re not always all about the numbers, but sometimes they speak for themselves. In this case: 100% hand picked, 100% Watervale, 96pts from James Halliday, and ageing potential beyond the next 10 years. Those, mofo, are pretty good numbers. You’ll get the citrus driven palate, sure. But what we have here goes well beyond that linear crisp style; it delves into green apple, honey, white blossoms and granitic minerality. This is a little waxy and weighted, it coats the palate aiding in a long and boisterous finish. We’re ticking all the boxes on the scorecard for this one.

Holdaway Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2023

Classically savvy and lusciously full of zing - refreshing and elegant, exhibiting bright acidity, nice fruit weight and subtle minerality. You find citrus in the form of grapefruit and mandarin, along with passionfruit, nettles and bell pepper. A nice little number out of Marlborough with a bit more going on.


Spaghetti alle vongole


  • 1 kg vongole (small clams)

  • sea salt

  • 320 g spaghetti

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin

  • olive oil

  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

  • 200 ml dry white wine

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • large handful of parsley, leaves picked and finely chopped

The sound of vongole clinking in a pan is one of the best kitchen sounds. It means long summer lunches, but also transports me to my time as a child, collecting seashells at our nearby beach. It feels romantic too, like a dusk walk along the cobbled streets of Rome, where the buildings turn an even more burnt orange than they were during the day. Spaghetti alle vongole is a simple dish, which means there is little room to hide. It’s all about matching the timing of the cooked pasta with the vongole opening. It can feel frantic. I think the best way to avoid this panic is to remove the vongole as soon as they are cooked, leaving behind a briny garlic sauce which is enriched with butter. The spaghetti can then be added to the sauce without much pressure. The vongole are added back in with the parsley and it’s a very happy pan indeed.

First ensure that the vongole are free of sand. To do this, place the vongole in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Add a good three-finger pinch of salt and allow to soak for 30 minutes. Drain.

Bring a large saucepan of generously salted water to the boil and cook the spaghetti until just before al dente. Drain, reserving 250 ml (1 ­cup) of pasta cooking water.

While the pasta is cooking, warm the olive oil in a large frying pan over low heat. Add the garlic and cook for 2–3 minutes, until soft and fragrant. Increase the heat to medium–high and add the vongole. Pour  ­in the wine and cover with a lid. Cook the vongole for 3–4­minutes, shaking the pan from time to time, until they open.

Once the vongole have opened, remove them from the pan with tongs­ or a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the butter to the pan and­ stir until melted, emulsifying it into the sauce. Add the spaghetti ­and enough of the pasta cooking water to slacken the sauce and coat the spaghetti. Return the vongole to the pan along with the parsley, and ­stir to warm through. Check for seasoning and serve.

This recipe is an extract from Around the Table by Julia Busuttil Nishimura, available now.

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