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.

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