If you’ve been following this site for any length of time, you know how much of the food here is inspired and driven by our culinary travels each year.
And now with no travels possible for what feels like eternity, I find myself cooking up dishes that revoke fond memories from far flung places around the world. Read about our adventures at Weave A Thousand Journeys when you have a minute.
But right now I'm going to go back in time and reminisce once of my favorite and culinary trips of all time. My very first and one spectacular culinary vacation to Sicily!
Many of these wonderful folks who joined on the trip have been cooking with me for a while in the classes. And let’s face it, good people know good people. So by that philosophy we ended up with friends, their better friends and spouses – a merry band of 11 if you will.
And boy did we have a blast!
From street food tours in Palermo, to a beautiful Azienda Agricola in the countryside where we learned all about artisanal olive oil, cooking classes with two of Sicily’s finest Instructors, hole in the wall places with amazing food in the villages like Chiaramonte Gulfi to Michelin restaurants to the insanely beautiful Baroque towns like Modica serving up some of the finest gnocchi pillows I have ever eaten in my entire life to vineyard tours, whew! we’ve done it all.
At our last meal together, someone asked me how I had managed to bring together 9 fantastic, alpha women to the table? And I realized, it’s because the real treasure in what we do, is in the people we meet. And if we’re lucky enough, then your paths cross with incredible people and what results are working relationships that turn into true friendships.
And herein for me, lies true wealth, the real treasure.
As I look back at all the years of our travel, sorting through thousands of pics on my phone and beaten up Samsung camera, I revel in the moments forever captured in stillness which would otherwise be lost, and I see why Sicily is so haunting.
La viva Italia! La dolce vita!
Sicily has so many faces and it's what makes it so haunting. As I got off the small plane from the mainland walking down the metal stairs, in the shadow of the rock mountain in Palermo, I thought to myself, “Dorothy, you ain’t in Kansas anymore”!
The traffic, the insanity of Palermo with its magnificent grandiose architecture and incredible street foods to the stark beauty of its landscape – hues of brown due to the large volcanic Mt Etna never quite far away, the countryside often littered by plastic bags that is quite surprising and turns out a sore subject with the locals, to the peaceful olive orchards on the west coast, the spell bounding magnificence of the Baroque towns to the glistening azure colors of the limestone formations of Scala dei turchi– the steps of Turkey to the endless horizon of vineyards in Central Italy, Sicily is one place with a myriad faces.
So whether I sit at the breakfast table nursing my cup of coffee (no longer prepared by the very excellent barista Valerio in Modica....sigh...) or going to dinner at a neighborhood restaurant, I realize, that just like saying good bye to a close friend, I will always carry Sicily in my heart.
So as I'm getting all nostalgic, waiting to return to beloved Sicilia, I decided to make a meal inspired by the beauty and the memories of that place and what to do but pour all my love into a dish to make our heart sing?!
This classic pasta with clams and white wine is made so much better with Italian sausage. With just a little bit of heat and addition of plump little tomatoes add that burst of fresh flavors. With a bottle of good white wine it's as close as we're going to get to Sicily at the moment.
PS: Mr. Hubby has been playing Paolo Conti on a loop. Sigh…..
Linguine Pasta with Spicy Italian Sausage & Clams
2-3 lbs. littleneck clams
water + 1-1/2 tbs. cornmeal - for soaking clams to get rid of grit and sand
¾ lbs. spicy Italian sausage
1 medium yellow onion (to yield 1 cup, finely chopped or minced)
4-5 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tsp whole fennel seeds
1-1/4 cup dry white wine such as Pinot Grigio
½ cup packed fresh parsley leaves
4-5 thyme sprigs
16 cherry tomatoes not grape tomatoes, washed and drained
1 tsp harissa paste
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
¼ cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
Extra olive oil for serving
1 lb. dry linguini pasta
1 tbsp. salt & water for cooking pasta
Clams: Soak the clams in plenty of water with cornmeal for at least 30 minutes and preferably 2 hours. Scrub and remove from water just before using.
Italian sausage: Remove from casings and shredded by hand.
Onions: Peel, discard ends and skin and finely chop or mince.
Garlic: Crush and finely chop
Parsley: Wash, finely chop and set aside.
Pasta water: Bring pasta water to a rolling boil with salt.
Heat a large heavy bottom pan with olive oil on medium high heat until very hot but not fuming. Add the onions, garlic and thyme sprigs. Sauté for 5-7 minutes until softened. Add the shredded Italian sausage and continue to sauté until opaque.
Add the tomato paste and pepperoncini or harissa paste sauté for a few seconds to combine.
Add the white wine and bring to a simmer. In a single layer, arrange the clams in the pan and surround with tomatoes. Cover with a tight fitting lid and cook for 7-8 minutes until the clams have opened and tomatoes are soft.
Just as soon as you begin cooking the clams, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook the pasta, stirring constantly for the first 5 minutes to prevent sticking. Drain and remove to a serving platter.
Once the clams have opened, zest the lemon with a microplane zester directly into the sauce and squeeze the juice of ½ lemon (avoid seeds). Top with parsley, salt and pepper.
Stir and taste and adjust seasonings.
Empty the sauce over the platted pasta. Serve onto individual plates and finish with lashings of good quality olive oil