Clam, Fennel and Pancetta Linguine

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Serves 2 people

Man has long understood the mystical qualities of matching the flesh of the land with the flesh of the sea – the sweet lightness of seafood lifting up the heavy, eath bound produce. Apparently the Surf and Turf term, used to descrive these pairings, was coined in the early 60s on the North Atlantic American coast and it’s now a staple of restaurants the world over.

For an easy, cheap version of the classic surf and turf try this Clam, Fennel and Pancetta pasta. It's sweet, floral and has a great mouth feel - plus, who doesn't love getting stuck right in to a dish?  As you’re not cooking the wine for long, use a wine you would be happy to drink – I always use a glass of the bottle I’m going to drink with this meal. I find the best whites with this dish are:

Riesling 2010 by Ant Moore – This bottle not only looks stunning, but tastes stunning too. The minerality and the zesty lemon notes in this wine cut through the dish and help balance out the sweetness of the clams/pancetta/fennel.

Pinot Grigio 2011 Ancora – This light, crisp wine cuts through the sweetness of the dish whilst not overpowering, whilst he floral notes marry brilliantly with the fennel.

Pouilly Fume La Renardiere 2009 - A strong wine with a very crisp 'gun flint' taste that cuts through the dish. Pretty lively so will perk everything up!

Timings are imperative in this meal, you don’t want your pasta sitting around for too long – so make sure you put the clams in to the pot when there’s about five minutes left for the pasta. You can always make the pancetta/onion/fennel/garlic mix first, take it off the heat, cook the pasta for five minutes and then start step 6 if you find it easier.

  1. Give the clams a rinse under cold water. Discard any that have cracked/broken shells or that don’t close when you tap them.
  2. Put a kettle of water on to boil (about 2 litres).
  3. Whilst the water is boiling put the pancetta in a small pan and cook over a medium high heat, when the fat has started coming out and it’s looking a bit crispy turn the heat down to low and add the onions and fennel.
  4. Put the pasta in to a large pan on high heat, add a good pinch of salt and when it reaches a rolling boil add the pasta and stir. Keep the pasta at a rolling boil and stir occasionally to stop it sticking to the bottom. Cook to the packet instructions.
  5. Stir the onions and when they become translucent (about five minutes) add the garlic and a couple of grinds of black pepper. Cook for two minutes.
  6. Add a glass of wine to the pan and then add the clams. Turn the heat up to med-high and put a tight fitting lid on the pan.
  7. Give the clams a stir round and put the lid back on.
  8. Once most of the clams have opened (about five miuntes) – drain the pasta and divide between the two bowls.
  9. Take the lid off the clams, check the seasoning of the sauce and add salt if needed. Divide the clams and all the lovely juices/bits in the pan between the two bowls (discard any of the clams that haven’t opened).
  10. Serve immediately with a lemon to squeeze over if you want to lighten the dish (I don’t think it needs it) and a big glass of wine on the side.

Sommeliers choice for this recipe:

Gavi la Battistina
Aromatic, zesty nose with apple, lime and kiwi notes and a hint of minerality. Juicy, weighty fruit with a zippy, citric acid mouthwatering feel creating a refreshing, satisfying finish.

Cortese di Piemonte Araldica
Fresh, primary fruit aromas of ripe grapefruit and lime; zingy, juicy and crisp with citrus flavours and mineral touches, it finishes with gently zesty acidity. Simple fish dishes, grilled goats cheese and red pepper with fresh basil.

Vermentino di Sardegna
This wine has a floral nose with a hint of apple, crisp acidity and citrus notes. Medium-bodied on the palate with a touch of spice. Delicious with fish and seafood.

Verdejo Castillo de Tomas
Clear straw-yellow in colour. Very expressive on the nose with aromas of gooseberry, apples and white stone fruits. Impressively rich, with good acidity and fine balance on the palate.

Image from shutterstock


500g clams – you can get these from any good fishmonger

200g linguine/spaghetti

200g pancetta

1 small onion – diced fine

2 cloves garlic – sliced fine

1 tsp fennel seeds

1 glass of white wine – use a wine you are happy drinking

Salt and black pepper