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8 & $20: Clam and Chorizo Pasta with a Crisp Rosé

Ease into autumn with this flavorful surf-and-turf pasta
Photo by: Christine Dalton
The spicy chorizo can overwhelm the flavors of a delicate white; a rosé had the fruit to balance the savory, salty meat.

Christine Dalton
Posted: October 11, 2016

Eight ingredients, plus pantry staples. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a feast for family or friends. That's the philosophy behind our "8 & $20" feature. We hope it adds pleasure to your table.

With the dog days of summer finally behind us, I’ve found myself craving more substantial fare. I’m not quite ready for hearty bowls of chili or plates of meat and potatoes, but it was time to reintroduce big bowls of pasta into my weeknight rotation.

Instead of delving right into a heaping serving of spaghetti Bolognese, I wanted to ease my way back into cooler-weather dishes with a seafood-inspired pasta that offers a bit of substance and spice. Fettuccine with clams and Spanish chorizo fit the bill perfectly. The dish is comforting enough to welcome the cooler days of fall, but light enough not to overwhelm the summery warm spells we still get early in the season.

A sucker for fresh pasta, I picked some up from the local Italian deli after stopping at a gourmet market for high-quality littleneck clams and some piquant cured Spanish sausages.

With such flavorful ingredients, the dish takes very little effort. A bit of steam quickly and easily pops the clams open, releasing an abundance of salty juices. I reserved the liquid to add some depth to my finished dish later on.

To intensify the savory, spicy flavors of the chorizo, I heated it in some olive oil, sautéed it with onions and garlic, and added a splash of white wine to create a fragrant broth. After a quick dunk in boiling salted water (fresh pasta only needs a few minutes to cook to al dente), the pasta joined the pan to soak up all the juices.

As I was serving the pasta to a group of friends, I chose to leave the clams in their shells for a rustic presentation. But if you prefer, you can remove the meat and mix it into the fettuccine. I finished the dish with a spritz of lemon and some fresh parsley, to add acidity and brightness, right before serving.

With the change in seasons, I’ve been stuck in a bit of wine limbo as well. I want to return to the bold reds I eschewed most of the summer, but with this dish, I decided I’d be better off sticking to some summer standbys.

I began with a tangy Sauvignon Blanc from South Africa. The bottling had terrific notes of tropical fruit, as well as the variety’s classic herbaceous flavors—perfect for a parsley-flecked pasta. Yet the spicy chorizo overwhelmed the wine’s delicate flavors, so I decided to move onto option No. 2.

Up next was a Picpoul de Pinet, a wine made in the coastal area of southern France’s Languedoc region and known for its ability to pair wonderfully with seafood and shellfish. However, the chorizo once again proved to be the difficult component in the dish. The light saline flavors of the Picpoul were lost to the spices in the Spanish sausage.

Then I thought to turn to a rosé. I always preach about the versatility of rosé, even after its popularity wanes following Labor Day. The bottling I chose was light enough not to overwhelm the salty, delicate flavors of the clams and herbs, yet had enough juicy berry fruit to temper and challenge the chorizo. The pairing provided that seamless transition between summer and fall I’d been seeking.

Fettuccine With Clams and Chorizo

Pair with a crisp Languedoc rosé such as Hecht & Bannier Languedoc Rosé 2015 (87 points, $13).

Prep time: 10 minutes
Active cooking time: 20 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
Approximate food costs: $55

  • 1/2 pound fettuccine
  • 5 pounds littleneck clams, cleaned
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2/3 cup cured Spanish chorizo, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 medium yellow onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
  • Lemon wedges for garnish
  • Salt and pepper to taste

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente and drain.

2. In a covered pot, heat clams over medium heat until they open, approximately 6 to 8 minutes. Reserve juices and set aside.

3. While the clams are cooking, add olive oil and chorizo to a large saucepan and warm until fragrant, approximately 2 to 3 minutes. Add onions and allow to soften, approximately 3 to 4 minutes and then add minced garlic and white wine. Stir occasionally.

4. Reduce heat to low and toss the pasta into the chorizo and onions. Add reserved clam juice in small increments to desired sauce thickness. Add clams, lemon juice and parsley, plus salt and pepper to taste. Serves 4.

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