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Orecchiette with clams and cavolo nero

Orecchiette with clams and cavolo nero

This is a timeless dish, rooted in winter by the addition of hardy cavolo nero. We love the way the little ears of pasta often end up with a clam in its shell, dressed in all the juices and ready to pick up and eat for the most delicate mouthful. Just the tiniest touch of chilli and lemon go a long way in this sauce.


450g / 15.9 oz clams
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, sliced
1/2 tsp chilli flakes

6 stems cavolo nero, cores removed and leaves sliced
100ml / 3.5 fl oz white wine
200g / 7.1 oz orecchiette
30g / 1.1 oz butter
small bunch of basil, leaves picked
lemon zest, finely grated, to serve

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  • Soak the clams in a bowl of cold water in a colander to help remove any grit. Tap them each on the kitchen surface. If the shells close or are already closed put them aside for cooking; any that don’t shut should be discarded.
  • Heat the olive oil in a wide frying pan that has a lid. Add the sliced garlic, chilli flakes and cavolo nero and fry for two minutes until the garlic is lightly golden.
  • Turn up the heat, splash in the white wine, and add the clams. Cover with a lid and simmer until all the clams have opened. Any that don’t, throw away.
  • Meanwhile, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the orecchiette and cook for 8 minutes or according to pack instructions. Drain, reserving a spoonful of the pasta water, and toss through the loose sauce with the butter.
  • Season and tear through the basil. Serve with a scattering of lemon zest.
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