Recipe Sleuth: Bibiana’s Chilled Spaghetti With Clams

When the thermometer reaches into the high-90s, it means it's time for cold dishes like this one. It doesn't require a lot of ingredients, and you probably have most of them on hand.
Photograph by Chris Leaman.

Bibiana, an Italian eatery on the fringes of DC’s Penn Quarter, served this chilled pasta dish at our Best Of Washington party, but don’t expect to see it on the restaurant’s menu for a while: Clams thrive in cool temperatures, and the coastal waters are too warm right now. Until you can order it at Bibiana again, here’s how to give it a try at home.

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Bibiana’s Chilled Spaghetti With Clams

40 littleneck clams
6 cloves garlic, 2 of them thinly sliced
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and chopped (you should end up with about 1 cup), stems reserved
1 package spaghetti (Bibiana recommends Rustichella d’ Abruzzi brand)
Pinch red-chili flakes
½ cup dry white wine
Salt to taste


Prepare the clams:

Rinse the clams in cold water for 2 hours to remove any excess sand (leave the water running the entire time). Afterward, place a large pot with a lid over medium-high heat. Once the pot is hot, add ½ the clams, ½ the stems from the parsley, and 2 whole cloves of garlic. Season the mixture with salt. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, cook for 30 seconds, then deglaze with ¼ cup white wine. Place the lid on the pot. After about 1 minute, the clams should open. At this point, remove them from heat, place in a bowl, and set aside. Pour out the liquid and reserve it. Rinse the pot and repeat this process for the other half of the clams. Once all the clams have been cooked, remove them from their shells and strain the cooking liquid through a fine-mesh strainer. Place the clams back in the liquid and set aside.

Assemble the dish:

Bring a large pot of water to boil and add salt to taste. Place the spaghetti in the water, and prepare an ice water bath.

While the pasta is cooking, combine the thinly sliced garlic and the chili flakes in a cold sauté pan, then set over medium heat. Cook until the garlic is soft and translucent. Add ½ of the cooking liquid from the clams, then remove from heat and chill. Once the spaghetti is cooked, place it in the ice water bath to cool it off, then strain. In a large mixing bowl, add the spaghetti, clams, parsley, and the cooking liquid. Toss together and serve.

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