Maybe I stopped making spaghetti with clam sauce because I felt my version was not authentic, but more likely it was because of Sam. Eight years younger than Sarah, he was a vegetarian from a very early age with a special aversion to all seafood (I always attributed this to the influence of The Little Mermaid—he was four and very affected by that calypso singing cleaver wielding chef under the sea.)
The clam recipe--canned in reality, fresh in ideal form, was replaced with an even more classic spaghetti with garlic and parsley.
I learned this from a young gay man, the roommate of a friend in Cambridge. He whipped it up one afternoon in 1971 as we listened to Carole King’s Tapestry, which had just been released. It was simple and delicious, an eye-opening meal.
Here’s the recipe:
Put up water to boil for one pound spaghetti.
Heat 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a heavy pan with eight to ten cloves of peeled garlic (I prefer to leave them whole and cook them until they’re soft, but not brown—but many variations are possible). If you want it a bit spicier (I usually do)—add a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes.
While this is cooking, add one pound of spaghetti to the boiling salted water. Just before spaghetti is done, put a ladleful of the starchy water into the pan with garlic.
Drain spaghetti. Add ½ cup parsley to the sauce, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix with spaghetti. Add Parmesan or pecorino or Romano cheese. And that’s it. You can also toss in roast cauliflower or sautéed artichoke hearts—whatever.