Carluccio’s is a place that brings back the fondest memories for me. N and I went there for our first date. I know it’s just a high street chain restaurant but the food is wonderful and generally consistent and I love having a look around their food store while I wait for my table. I’ve picked up some great treats there that have since become staples in my larder. And my signature dish….Spaghetti alle Vongole. I have to thank N for introducing me to this one. It’s so delicious we’ve been known to leave restaurants if they’ve run out of it. Carluccio’s does a fantastic job at producing this dish but we’ve also found other great versions in Paris, Sorrento and at a fantastic little family run Italian trattoria on the Gray’s Inn Road in Holborn called L’Osteria 57. The wonderful thing about this place is they let us tailor the dish to our taste so we often swop the traditional clams for mussels and prawns to give it a bit of a twist.
Do you ever wish you could describe your life through food and drink? Wouldn’t that be beautiful? Your favourite food as a child or perhaps your worst food as a child! The dish you ordered on a magical night out with your partner, the first dish you cooked, the wine you drank at your wedding or perhaps the champagne at your graduation. Food and drink plays such an important part in our lives and a great dish, just like a great song, can conjure up so many wonderful memories. I think that’s why N and I often go back to the same restaurants again and again and even the same holiday destinations. It’s the sense of familiarity it brings, the sense of comfort and the feeling of belonging.
This dish can be prepared in two ways: with tomato (in rosso) and without (in bianco). Both are great but I tend to order the bianco variation. The rest of the ingredients are so simple, but I think it’s the simplicity that makes it taste so great. And the fact the ingredients are so simple means that it is also a great dish to prepare at home. When I recreate this dish at home I make my prawn and mussel version. You can use fresh mussels and steam them yourself but I use ready prepared ones from M&S. Bit of a cheat I know, but this way it means the whole dish takes only 15 minutes to make.
Spaghetti alle Vongole
(serves 2 | total prep and cooking time approximately 15 minutes)
130g dry spaghetti
140g raw prawns
1 pack of Marks and Spencer’s cooked mussels in shallots and garlic or in white wine and parsley
4 cloves of garlic – finely chopped
Finely chopped chilli – how much depends on your preference
100ml white wine
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
· Cook the spaghetti according to the instructions on the packet
· Rinse the mussels under cold water and remove them from the shells (you can keep them in the shells if you prefer, it looks better that way but slows you down when you’re eating!)
· Heat some olive oil in a large frying pan and pan fry the prawns till they turn pink. Remove the cooked prawns with a slotted spoon and keep aside
· Heat a little more oil in the same frying pan and add the garlic and chilli, cook for a couple of minutes
· Add the prawns and the mussels
· Add the white wine and bring to the boil. Cook at this temperature for about 5 minutes to make sure the alcohol evaporates
· Add the chopped parsley
· Toss in the cooked spaghetti
· Serve with cracked black pepper on top and accompanied by garlic bread and salad