Pasta with Clams, Corn, and Basil Pesto

If you’d like to skip the pesto step, you can purchase pre-made pesto at the supermarket; you’ll need about half a cup to make this dish. Other quick-cooking shellfish, such as mussels or medium shelled prawns, can be substituted for the clams, but you might need an extra splash of pasta water to loosen the sauce.


4 servings

For the pesto:
1/2 garlic clove, finely grated
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano
1 cup packed fresh basil leaves (stems reserved)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
For the clams and pasta:
Kosher salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 small shallots, thinly sliced
1/2 cup white wine
24 littleneck or Manila clams, scrubbed
12 ounces short tubular pasta, such as mezze rigatoni
2 cups corn kernels (from 3 to 4 ears)

Make the pesto:

Step 1

In a blender or food processor, combine garlic, Parmigiano, basil, and oil and blend until very smooth, scraping down sides as needed and adding a tablespoon or two of water if needed to get things moving. Add lemon zest and season with salt and pepper. Set pesto aside (you should have about 1/2 cup).

Cook the clams and pasta:

Step 2

Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta and season it generously with salt. In a medium Dutch oven or large cast-iron skillet, heat butter and oil over medium-high heat. When butter is foaming, add garlic, shallots, and reserved basil stems and cook until mixture is fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add wine and bring to a simmer. Add clams, toss to coat, cover, and cook, checking and stirring every few minutes, until clams begin to open, 3 to 5 minutes. As clams open, transfer them with a slotted spoon to a medium bowl, but try to keep pot covered as much as possible. Fish out basil stems and keep pan sauce warm over very low heat. (If you want a shell-free dining experience, gently liberate clams from their shells and return them to bowl with a splash or two of pasta water over them so they don’t dry out.)

Step 3

Cook pasta until 1 or 2 minutes shy of al dente. Scoop 1 cup of pasta water into pan with clam sauce. Drain pasta and add to sauce along with half of the pesto. Add corn and bring mixture to a simmer. Cook, stirring, until liquid starts to thicken and pasta is al dente, about 2 minutes. Add clams and any accumulated liquid from bowl. Cook, stirring and tossing, until clams are warmed through, 2 minutes. Serve pasta and clams topped with more pesto.

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