Jamie Oliver last made a splash in the U.S. with his “Food Revolution” television show that exposed the dirty underbelly of Americans’ obsession with sugar, fast and junk food.
Now, he’s stepped off his (well-meaning and influential) soapbox and returned to cooking with “Jamie Oliver’s Comfort Food,” a book he called the ultimate weekend cookbook.
Most of the dishes are certainly more complex than weeknight comfort food — handmade tortellini, a two-day bouillabaisse and an “insanity burger” that seems to fly in the face of all his healthy eating proselytizing. Other meals, like this spin on the classic spaghetti vongole, which uses fresh tomatoes, sun-dried tomato paste and rosé, are more in line with the simplistic, reassuring style that Americans fell in love with through his many cooking programs that have aired over the past 15 years.
Blushing Spaghetti Vongole
The key to success with vongole is to have everything prepped before you start cooking, because the whole thing will be ready in just a matter of minutes once you get going. We want perfectly cooked pasta, just-opened shellfish and spot-on seasoning — it sounds easy, but to achieve this you do need to focus.
— Jamie Oliver
2 cloves of garlic
8 ripe cherry tomatoes
1/2 dried red chile
1/2 bunch of fresh Italian parsley
5 1/2 oz. dried spaghetti
Extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. sun-dried tomato paste
10 oz. clams or cockles (washed and debearded)
1 glass Pinot Grigio blush
To start, peel and finely slice the garlic, quarter the tomatoes, then break apart the dried chile, shake out and remove the seeds, and finely chop or crumble it. Very finely slice the parsley stalks, then roughly chop the leaves and put them aside for later.
Cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water according to package instructions. Around 5 minutes before it’s ready, place a large frying pan on a high heat. After 2 minutes, add a generous swirl of olive oil, quickly followed by the garlic, tomatoes, chile, parsley stalks and sun-dried tomato paste. Shake around, then add the clams or cockles (remembering to tap any that are open; if they don’t close, throw them away) and, after 30 seconds, add the wine. Pop the lid on for 1 minute, then remove so you can watch the clams or cockles open and the wine evaporate.
If you’ve got your timing right, as most of the shellfish pop open (throw away any that remain closed) you’ll be ready to drain your pasta and throw it on top with the chopped parsley leaves and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Give it all a good toss together, then taste the sauce — it shouldn’t need seasoning because of the clams, but it’s always wise to check. Divide the pasta between two warm bowls, followed by the clams or cockles and all those wonderful juices, and tuck straight in.
— From “Jamie Oliver’s Comfort Food” by Jamie Oliver (Ecco, $34.99)