Spaghetti alle Vongole

Quick, easy and one of the most delicious pasta dishes outside of a good pesto. Afterwards, just sit back and enjoy a crisp Pinto Grigio or Rose like you're sitting seaside on the Almafi coast.  

The clams are the star of this dish, but co-starring is the garlic. You may also call this dish 'Aglio con Spaghetti alle Vongole.'  I've cooked this recipe for years using the sweetness of caramelized garlic, which adds a nice component to this dish. Yes, my family in Italy is shaking their heads right now as they cook with a very little amount of garlic. Go figure? But here in the US we've become accustomed to big flavors in our dishes. So get out my old recipe for caramelized garlic and make a half dozen heads, I guarantee you won't have any left. 


Spaghetti alle Vongole recipe by George Hirsch

makes 4-6 servings | George Hirsch Lifestyle from Know Your Fire Cookbook

1 pound dry spaghetti or linguine

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving

2 heads caramelized garlic cloves, crushed

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 pounds Manila or littleneck clams, scrubbed and rinsed well

1 cup dry white wine 

Juice of 1 lemon

4 Tablespoons sweet butter

Freshly ground black pepper

4 Tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, rough chopped

2 Tablespoons fresh basil, rough chopped

Optional: 1/4 cup lightly toasted bread crumbs

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente.

Prepare the sauce while the pasta is cooking to toss the spaghetti directly into the sauce.

Pre heat a deep side saute pan or dutch oven; add olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes; saute for 1 minute. Add the clams, wine, half the parsley and lemon juice. Cover and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until all the clams are opened, about 5 - 8 minutes. Discard any clams that do not open.

Increase heat to medium temperature add the hot, drained linguine to the pan; add the butter and season with pepper. Toss the pasta with the clams to coat pasta with clam sauce. Top with chopped parsley, basil and toasted bread crumbs. Drizzle with additional olive oil. Serve immediately.

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Grilled Fillet of Beef with Red Wine Sauce

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The ultimate prized piece of beef is the fillet mignon, the center of the beef tenderloin. Because this cut of beef has no fat on the surface, it should be brushed with oil before cooking. The cooking times for beef will vary according to the temperature of the fire as well as the temperature of the meat and the air. A beef fillet, or beef tenderloin, is the most tender of all beef cuts. It contains no bone or fat. Although the fillet is fork-tender, it lacks a real beefy flavor so it is often seasoned before roasting and served with a sauce


Grilled Fillet of Beef with Red Wine Sauce | adapted from Know Your Fire Cookbook

2 pound beef tenderloin roast, trimmed

2 teaspoons hot sauce

1/4 cup prepared mustard

2 Tablespoons coarsely crushed peppercorns

1 teaspoon Italian parsley, coarsely chopped

2 Tablespoons olive oil

For the Shitake Mushrooms & Red Wine Sauce

2 Tablespoons sweet butter

1 cup sliced shitake mushrooms

2 shallots, finely chopped or 2 Tablespoons chopped onions

1/4 cup dry red wine 

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 Tablespoon sherry, optional

Preheat the grill or grill pan to high.

Rub the meat with the hot sauce and spread evenly with the mustard on all sides. Mix the peppercorns and parsley together and pat onto the meat. Brush beef with olive oil. 

Sear the meat on the grill until it is brown on all sides. Lower the heat to medium and finish cooking to desired doneness. For rare, the approximate time is 7-8 minutes per pound, 8-10 minutes for medium rare, 10-12 minutes for medium. Cool the meat slightly for five minutes and slice thin. 

Meanwhile, in a saute pan melt the butter over medium heat and add the shitake mushrooms and shallots. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms begin to get a little color. Add the wine and thyme and cook 1 minute. If inclined, add the sherry.

To serve, garnish the steaks with the mushrooms and red wine sauce.

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Jamón Serrano

Jamón Serrano is Spain's dry cured country ham, much like the more popular Prosciutto of Italy, but slightly little less fatty. Jamón Serrano can come from any region in Spain, unlike Prosciutto di Parma, a certified product specifically marked from the Parma region in Italy. Jamón Serrano is aka mountain ham, a nickname given because originally the mountain regions were where the hams were cured, possessing ideal climate conditions for curing the hams for at least a year. This Serrano ham is a common ham, embraced and ingrained in the customs and traditions in all Spain's regions. And also, enjoyed on a daily basis at most Spanish meals.

Available at specialty markets.

Serve: carved paper thin with hard cheese and fresh fruit.


In honor of Carnevale di Venezia 2011: 

A big part of every evening in Venice begins with an elaborate array of appetizer size portions served on small plates, like tapas or as the Venetians call it cicchetti (chi-KEH-tee). 

This style of entertaining is such a pleasant way to enjoy an evening with family and friends. In place of the typical ‘big roast’ dinner party, it’s easy to put together a last minute ‘cicchetti’ menu which can be prepared ahead of serving. Many of the food items are probably available right in your own pantry or refrigerator. Serve buffet style.

Grand Canal, Venice Italy

Venetian Cicchetti Menu

- Deep-fried mozzarella cheese, Gorgonzola, calamari, artichoke hearts and anything that can    be put on a toothpick. 

- Crostini (little toasts) is also popular, as are marinated seafood, olives and prosciutto with melon. 

- Meat and fish bites are ideal and with grapes, figs and fennel for a perfect mix. 

- Bite size meatballs, hard boiled eggs with anchovies, fried vegetables 

More traditional items can include; moscardini (tiny octopus) with polenta, soppressa and toasted bread with creamed cod, and sardines cooked and marinated with onions and vinegar, flavored with raisins and pine nuts. 


Wine is the drink of choice. Serve your ‘house’ red or white wine (ombra rosso or ombra bianco) or a small beer (birrino). Pour traditional Venetian favorites such as a Spritz, a refreshing Venice cocktail of prosecco, (Italian sparkling wine) soda and Campari or Aperol bitters.


Wrap up the evening by serving sgroppino (lemon sorbet, prosecco with a splash of vodka) or a small glass of Grappa. Top with a typical Venetian sweet such as zaeti, a biscuit prepared with polenta flour and raisins or bussolai buranelli, butter biscuits made in a round shape that are wonderful when dunked in sweet Vin Santo.   

Sgroppino Recipe.