32 - Spaghetti with Clam Sauce

One dish I haven’t cooked for years is spaghetti with clam sauce. I’d assumed the recipe had been retired before children, but Sarah remembers it as a staple of her childhood.

Its first version is recorded in a little brown notebook of recipes that I compiled in 1967. Russell was heading off to graduate school and to ward off potential starvation, I filled the pages of a tiny four inch spiral notebook with a mix of recipes and reminders of foods he might prepare for himself. Complete with a table of contents.

I have always described this notebook with the University of Rochester insignia as something I’d made for your father, but I suspect that when I enrolled in graduate school the following year, I re-claimed the book and made it mine, filling it with rarely made recipes copied from the New York Times.

The spaghetti with clam sauce recipe was written while I was still in Madison, evidence that I began making it while I was still in college, though I remember it most clearly from the Somerville years.

Leafing through the spineless (literally) New York Times cookbook--which was my primary recipe source for many years—I discovered that the recipe for White clam sauce was a particularly stain splattered page. This is my chief evidence that this was the source for the clam sauce recipe that I usually used.
White Clam Sauce (New York Times Cookbook, 1961, p.343)

1/4-cup butter
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups clam juice, fresh or canned
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
2 cups minced clams, fresh or canned

1. In a saucepan heat the butter, add the garlic and cook one minute over moderate heat. With a wire whisk stir in the flour. Add the clam juice, while stirring.
2? Add the parsley, salt, pepper and thyme and simmer gently ten minutes. Add the minced clams and heat through. Serve over linguine or spaghetti.

Striking here is the complete lack of opinion or editorializing--no difference discerned between fresh and canned clams.

At a certain point, I knew that a proper spaghetti with clam sauce should involve tiny fresh clams and little shells pushed t the side of plates--but what can I say? I never took that more authentic and delicious path. In fact, once I learned the error of my ways, I suspect I stopped making all variation whatsoever.

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