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Food
Garlicky clam sauce another pasta trifecta

Thursday, March 06, 2003

By Nancy Anderson, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

When Linda Buono Coleman sent us her recipe for Shells With Clam Sauce, she wrote: "Here I am with another pasta recipe. This one is always included in my Italian Christmas Eve seven fishes feast."

The recipe came from her father, Frank Buono, who made the dish for years. Born and raised in the Hill District, he learned to make the clam sauce from his immigrant grandmother.

Originally, the recipe called for linguine, but Linda switched to shells because "They're easier to serve and eat on a buffet, and they hold more of the chopped clams inside."

Besides Shells With Clam Sauce, her Christmas Eve seven fishes feast features fried smelts, salted cod, shrimp cocktail, Italian tuna, anchovies with capers and crab meat dip.

"For rookies (guests who don't care for fish), I make meatballs with sauce and buffalo chicken wings," said the Castle Shannon resident, who invites 15 to 18 lucky people to her groaning board.

Linda's motto is "the more clams the better" when making clam sauce, and she uses three cans with their juice.

We followed her directions to the letter, and the result was a flavorful pasta dinner where guests asked for seconds.

She loves it topped with cheese.

"I've heard some chefs, cooks, et cetera say that cheese and seafood don't mix," she said from her office at the Pennsylvania Association of Credit Management, which is only one stop sign away from her home.

"What do they know? Pass the grated cheese!"

Shells with Clam Sauce

  • 1 pound medium shells
  • 3 (6.5-ounce) cans chopped clams with juice
  • 1/4 cup light olive oil
  • 2 large cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning or oregano and basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Grated Parmesan or Romano cheese (optional)

Put a large pot of water on to heat. When boiling, add pasta and turn low. Cook 15 minutes or until al dente.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan over medium heat, add olive oil and the garlic, turn heat to low and saute until garlic is clear.

Add clams with juice and raise heat to high. Once it comes to a full boil, immediately take off heat, add seasoning, salt and pepper and cover. This will cook the clams but not overcook them and make them rubbery. Let stand for about 10 minutes.

Drain pasta (do not rinse) well, pour sauce over top and toss well. Linda likes to use a covered dish so she can cover it and let the pasta absorb some of the sauce for a few minutes before serving. (We took her advice and it works.)


Nancy Anderson can be reached at nanderson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3549.

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