I’m a mom that loves to cook. Sometimes. What I should say is, I’m a mom who loves to eat great food and have my family eat great food. Having a personal raw foods chef  just isn’t in the cards this year so I am left to my own devices in the kitchen. I gravitate to recipes with amazing results that are easy to prepare. I cook lots of Italian. I also cook hippy; seasonal, local and healthy.

When I lived in Italy the thing I noticed most of all was the simplicity of the food. Just a few ingredients used at a time. Not every ingredient in your fridge at the same time. Which was new to me.  Minimalism in the kitchen just may be what your palette desires but you don’t know it yet.

My husband, being a little homesick for his food at times, had a hankering for spaghetti allo scoglio. Which sounds really complicated but it’s just shellfish pasta. You can make it in under thirty minutes. That includes setting the table and having a glass of wine mid project. It’s that simple. This is  a dish found on most seaside restaurant menus in Italy. Make it and save 20 euros.

You may have never cooked mussels or clams before. Don’t be scared, mussels especially, are a snap to cook. I read a couple recipes in Italian before I made this at our house and the big debate seemed to be between steaming the mussels first, then adding them to the sauce. Or steaming the mussels in the sauce while it’s cooking. You choose. Another major argument over on the Italian food forums is what, exactly, goes into the perfect spaghetti allo scoglio. Just forget it cause you can’t even get the ingredients traditionally listed in the recipes. The fishing boat from Naples doesn’t stop in these parts. Just assemble some shellfish that looks appetizing and you are golden.

What you need. For 4 people

Spaghetti: 125 grams per person. For 4 people that is one packet of pasta (500g/1lb)

A selection of any of the following : Mussels, clams, prawns, scallops. (together roughly weighing 1.5 kg/ 3lbs).  Scrub shell exteriors with a potato brush. Note: If you are using clams in the shell you need to do another step; here’s how.

2-3 tomatoes or a handful of cherry tomatoes, diced

4 cloves garlic, finely diced

handful of flat leaf/Italian parsley, chopped

chilli flakes (optional)

white wine

What to do.

Prepare a large pot of water to boil your pasta.  In another medium sized pot, place your mussels/clams  inside with an inch of water.  You can steam them on high heat for 3-5 minutes while you are preparing the rest. They are finished when the shells open up. Take a large frying pan and fry your garlic with olive oil. Add your scallops or prawns and a splash of liquid from your pot of shells. Then add  a glug of white wine . Cook your scallops and prawns until just done and set aside. Add the chopped tomatoes to the same pan and simmer on medium heat for 5 minutes. Then add your parsley, some salt and chili if you swing that way.  Add your shells, and a little shell cooking water if the sauce looks dry. Mix to combine, cover, and kill the heat. Please, if a shell hasn’t opened after steaming, don’t eat it.

Big Italian Mama hint for cooking pasta is as follows. Lots of water. Add salt. For god sakes set a timer! Nothing like overcooking your pasta when your guest are seated and waiting. Set your timer to 1 minute short of the package directions for al dente.  That gives you enough time to drain your pasta before it sogs out. After you’ve drained your pasta, return it to it’s pot and add your sauce. Mix to combine. Serve on four plates and place reserved prawns and scallops on top. Mangiamo.

Photo credits: All photos by Bianca Gignac, except first and last by Kristy Graham

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