10.06.2018

Rock Spaghetti Rocks!

Seven years ago this month, Mark and I were in Rome. It was sweltering - hot, humid, and hazy. Not my kind of weather.

As is our custom when we travel, we ate out at noon, but breakfasted and had dinner in our apartment. We made simple but wonderful meals on the little two-burner apartment stove, grateful the studio was air-conditioned. We cooked basic pasta dishes, using one burner for the sauce, the other for the pasta.

On the last day we cleaned out the fridge in anticipation of the next morning’s departure and opted to spend our final evening dining in a nice restaurant we had seen one afternoon. It was small - perhaps six tables - and had an alluring Old World ambiance. However, we didn’t think to make a reservation, and found them full. We started walking around, looking for a place for dinner.

Nothing was feeling right until we came to L’Orso 80. The name of the restaurant is derived from the street where it can be found - Via dell’Orso. While it had brilliant hot lighting, and was wide open to the street to release the heat of the ovens into the stifling street, there was something about it that told us it was authentic. We ventured in.

Within a few moments we were greeted by our server who set down a plate of aperitivi: piping hot supplì (meat and sauce-stuffed rice balls), zucchini fritters, and a few others. Our first thought was that this was going to cost us dearly! “Who cares?” we asked ourselves, as it was our last night of vacation. In the end, there was no upcharge for our appetizers - it is simply this restaurant’s way of welcoming its guests.

After perusing the menu, we ended up ordering a dish that is not typically Roman fare. It sounded so good to us both that we knew we had to have it. Spaghetti allo Scoglio - or Rock Spaghetti. It comes from Campania, a region just south of Rome that includes Naples and the Amalfi Coast. The “rock” refers to the rocks in the sea amongst which the ingredients live... clams, mussels, calamari, and shrimp.

The Spaghetti allo Scoglio was absolutely amazing, bright and briny, and we fell in love with it immediately. When we got home to Tucson, we made it for ourselves right away. Then, somehow, we forgot about it until this July. I don’t know how that happened but I can assure you we won’t let it happen again!

We were gifted a very special bottle of wine to go with this meal celebrating our anniversary – a 2013 Château d’Esclans Garrus. To read more about this wine, head over to the Provence WineZine.

I did a lot of research on this traditional recipe. Each version I found (all in Italian from trusted Italian sources) had the same basic ingredients. The ratios of fish differed - sometimes by a lot - and the method, as well. The recipe you see here today is my take on them all, including the one we had in Rome.

The title of this posts says it all: this rock spaghetti rocks!

~ David

Mark prefers his seafood out of the shells.
Spaghetti allo Scoglio

12 ounces dried spaghetti
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 1/2 pound mussels, debearded and scrubbed
1 1/2 pounds clams
8 calamari tubes, with tentacles if desired
1 shallot, peeled and halved
1/2 cup white wine
24 grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered
16 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley


Heat a large pot of water for the pasta. Measure out the 12 ounces spaghetti.

Scrub your shellfish to remove seaweed and grit. Discard any that are broken or already open and do not close when you handle them. I generally soak the clams in some salted water for a bit giving them the chance to eject any sand.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add two tablespoons olive oil. Add the mussels and clams along with 1/4 cup water or wine, cover, and cook for 5-10 minutes until the shells open. This signals that the seafood is cooked. The shells should start to open at around 5 minutes. Remove any that have opened and place them in a large bowl. Re-cover the pan, and continue to cook, checking every couple of minutes, until all the shells have opened. If any shells are broken or do not open, throw them away.

Note: Depending on which kind of clams you get, they can take longer to cook than the mussels. Keep an eye on them and remove any mussels as they open so they don’t overcook. As you remove them, place the shellfish in a bowl. When all are cooked, strain broth through a fine-mesh sieve and reserve. Set aside.

When mussels and clams are cool, remove the meat and discard the shells. Note: you may serve the mussels and clams in their shells. It is beautiful presentation but much messier at the table!

Add the spaghetti to the boiling water. Cook for about 8 minutes.

While the spaghetti cooks, heat another 2 tablespoon oil in a large skillet until shimmering. Add the calamari and shallot (cut sides down), and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the wine and cherry tomatoes and cook for another 3-5 minutes. Remove and discard the shallot.

Add the partially-cooked spaghetti to the skillet along with the reserved cooking liquid from the mussels and clams and 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Bring to a boil, cooking for a couple of minutes. Add the shrimp and the reserved mussel and clam meats. When the shrimp are just opaque, season with freshly ground pepper.

Divide among 4 heated pasta bowls, sprinkle with parsley, and serve.

Serves 4.

Note: I do not add salt this dish other than the salt that naturally occurs in the seafood and the salt in the pasta water.


30 comments:

  1. What wonderful memories ! Funny how one can forget whole slabs of time and then remember one particular day or part thereof with absolute clarity ! Lovely pasta dish not difficult to prepare . . . so wholly dependant on the quality of the seafood used . . . have to remember next time I have access to our fish market . . .

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    1. When I think back on my vacations, I often forget that it rained the entire week... I just remember the sunny memories!

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  2. I can picture sweltering in Rome in the summer, but the pasta makes up for it!

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  3. Totally understand your frustration with the heat but food makes you forget all the troubles ! Pasta rocks :-) I thank you deary for this one :-)

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    1. Yes, good food DOES make up for everything!

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  4. Replies
    1. It is, Inger - and you can have it now that you aren’t eating only local ingredients!

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  5. David, I like the way you relate each of your posts to a special event that you have had or a special meeting with a friend- gives a nice special touch to your posts!

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    1. It make it really fun for me to write, Fran!

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  6. Throughout all our last travels - mainly in Portugal and Italy - we learned the "complimentary" appetisers often meant they'd appear on the bill if you eat them. I guess that's just the way things roll. Sometimes we helped ourselves, but most times we simply left them or said we didn't need them.

    I had a few seafood and pasta beauties in Italy, such as this gorgeous rock spaghetti. I love it! The best is now a distant memory from a beaten up old place in Santa Margherita on my first trip to Italy in 2002. Sigh.

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    1. We were just served a complimentary pizza at a restaurant in Catania - maybe “free” is more common than I thought!

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  7. Such lovely memories. I love the routine of eating out at noon and in,in the morning and evening. Sometimes the best gems are found by accident, which it sounds like this restaurant was. Just looked at he pictures of it on their site and it looks so quaint and special. Gorgeous photos of a gorgeous meal!

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    1. We continue to eat that way - and look forward to retirement when we can eat that way all the time! We feel healthier when we eat this way!

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  8. I so enjoyed reading your memories of dining in Rome. I jumped over and had a peek at Orso 80 and it look great. Your Rock Spaghetti would set proudly on our table anytime. We both love such pasta dishes and will be giving this a try.

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    1. This is a perfect dish for you, Ron - you have access to such beautiful fresh seafood!

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  9. Nothing would make Ken happier than to sit down to a bowl of this (of course I'd be smiling too)> GREG

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    1. And it would be my pleasure to have you both smiling!

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  10. I love Italy and Italian food, it tastes so fresh and good. I am heading to Northern Italy next week and I can't wait to make a pig of myself on all the delicious food.

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    1. Have a wonderful trip, Emma! I look forward to recipes you find while there!

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  11. Sounds like a great place for your anniversary meal. This pasta dish sounds pretty special too, so fresh and vibrant.

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  12. Terrific looking dish! Great ingredients + simple, intelligent preparation = superb flavor. Wonderful recipe and really fun read -- thanks.

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    1. Thanks, John. That is why I like Italian food so much! Simple and elegant with great ingredients!

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  13. David, how do you manage to eat out with the garlic allergy? I thought of you on a recent getaway when, after three days of dining out (trying to avoid garlic as much as possible), I was in agony. Help!

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    1. It is tough, Jean! However, I never have any problem in Italy! So much of the food is garlic free, or so freshly made that garlic can be left out. Not the case in the U.S., for sure. Freshly made food is a thing of the past where we live, I’m afraid. So many restaurants tell you it is so but, when you get there, you end up with a simple, bland piece of fish. Not even chicken, as it is mostly pre-marinated these days. Getting off my soapbox now...

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  14. Don't you just love this part of travel? Things sometimes look like they're not going to work out, but then something happens and it's even better than you expected! I would love this dish, and your photos are just so enticing! Can't wait to go back to Rome!

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    1. We just spent a night in Rome (Ostia) on our way back from Sicily, and were so happy to indulge in so,e wonderful Roman food.

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  15. I'd loved reading about your last day of Italian vacation! One day I hope we will get to travel abroad again :) This rock spaghetti looks nothing short of amazing, David!

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    1. Once the kids get bigger, I’ll bug you and Evan to get out on the road!

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