I’m very lucky that my family will try practically anything that I cook. Since my kids were little, I’ve tried to introduce them to all kinds of foods. Different flavors. Different cultures. Different dishes. They’ve tried dishes from India, Africa, Jamaica, Canada, France, Germany, China, Japan, Mexico…

I’ve tried lots of different foods and they’ve eaten all of them – sometimes suspiciously and tentatively. But they’ve tried them. Most of the time, they end up liking the food. They love pretty much anything Asian and Mexican. That’s a given. But they have been ready to try everything I’ve tried to make.

Expanding their palates was my goal and, as a result, they are very adventurous, both in eating and in cooking. They don’t usually judge a dish by its appearance without first giving it a try.

However, this has led to some snobbery:

Mama, is this AMERICAN cheese on my grilled cheese? Don’t you have any gouda or provolone or Havarti?

Mama, can you use that smoked salt in this?

Mama, I didn’t eat at my friend’s house. His mom made gumbo and it just didn’t look like yours. I was nice though. I just told her I’d already eaten.

I’ve created monsters.

Recently, I saw a t.v. host make a version of this dish. I have never cooked with canned clams – which means that my tribe has never eaten canned clams. But I bought some anyway. She’s one of my favorite t.v. cooks – full of smiles and sunshine – so I decided to give it a try.

I bought the clams almost six months ago and they’ve just been sitting in the pantry. Every time I opened the door to get something, there they were. Just sitting on the shelf, looking at me. I would consider making the dish – even picked up one of the cans several times – but I always ended up putting them back and making something else. I was a little intimidated. I had never eaten clams. We’re from Louisiana. We’re more likely to have oysters than we are clams! I had never even opened a can of clams. What would it SMELL like?

But this week, I decided to give it a try. I already knew that I would need to alter the recipe a bit for my tribe. If you’ve been following my blog, even a little, you probably remember that Michael doesn’t like garlic. AT ALL. So I knew that I would have to change that because there was a lot of garlic in the original recipe!

The first part of the recipe calls for toasting some bread crumbs for the topping. I changed this from the original by using panko bread crumbs – and I so glad I did! They turned out SUPER crispy and were the perfect topping for this delicious dish.

When you are toasting the breadcrumbs, this is really not the time to walk away from the stove and do something else. Stay with the crumbs. Stir them often. They can go from lovely and golden to charred and unusable VERY quickly! I used a very big skillet for this because I only wanted to use one pan for the recipe and I knew I would need the big skillet for the rest of the dish. It was also good because there was more surface area, so the crumbs browned a little quicker. Once the breadcrumbs are as dark as you’d like them, remove them to a bowl and move on with the rest of the recipe.

You’re going to cook the spaghetti next. If you want to use more than one burner, you can put the pot of water on to boil and go ahead and start the skillet with the rest of the ingredients. If you do that, this will seriously take 15 minutes! I wasn’t in a hurry and was enjoying lavishing attention on my favorite burner (front right), so I just boiled the pasta and then moved on. While I was waiting for the water to boil, I went ahead and opened the cans of clams (they didn’t stink!) and chopped the parsley. Once the pasta is cooked – pretty al dente – remove it from the burner and set it aside without draining it. The pasta will have a few more minutes in the water and will continue to cook, so it won’t be too chewy. If you’re cooking the pasta at the same time, you can use tongs and just transfer the cooked pasta straight from the pot to the clam mixture. You won’t need to reserve any pasta water because water will be transferred with the pasta.

In the same skillet that you browned the breadcrumbs, drizzle olive oil and add garlic (just a little for us!) and red pepper flakes. I had a horrible accident with the pepper flakes. I didn’t realize that the shaker top had come off and I ended up dumping the ENTIRE CONTAINER of red pepper flakes into the skillet! I don’t know why I didn’t just dump everything out and start over, but I didn’t. I used a spoon and scooped out what I didn’t need.

This ended up becoming a new favorite dish! It’s very economical and you can keep all the ingredients in the pantry and just whip it up whenever you’re ready! Michael has already asked that I make it again. Elizabeth was at a friend’s house and didn’t get any. She was TICKED! But the guys loved it so much that they ate the entire skillet full of pasta! When I make it again, I will make some garlic bread to go with it so that it goes a little further. I could make a salad, but…

Spaghetti with Clams

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil
  • 1 cup of panko breadcrumbs
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 pound of spaghetti
  • 1 tablespoon of minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup of dry white wine
  • 3 6.5-ounce cans of minced clams with the liquid1 cup of chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup of real bacon pieces

Directions:

  • Add 4 teaspoons of olive oil to a skillet over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and stir to be sure the crumbs are coated with the oil. Add a fat pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper. Toast the breadcrumbs, stirring occasionally, until as dark as you’d like. Pour into a bowl and set aside.
  • Fill a pot with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Once the water is vigorously boiling add several fat pinches of salt before adding the pasta. Cook for about 8 minutes and remove from the heat.
  • In a very large skillet, add 4 teaspoons of olive oil and the garlic and red pepper flakes. Over medium-low heat, stir until garlic is fragrant. Add the wine and cook for another 2 minutes. Stir in the clams and bacon and turn heat to medium. Bring to a simmer.
  • Scoop out about a cup of the pasta water and then drain the pasta. Add the pasta to the clam mixture, tossing to incorporate. If it seems a little dry, add as much of the pasta water as you need. Add the chopped pasta and use tongs to combine throughout the pasta.
  • Place servings in individual bowls and top with reserved toasted breadcrumbs.

Well Duh #1: We don’t drink alcohol in our house, so I used cooking wine. I know. But it was fine. It’s only a 1/4 cup anyway!

Well Duh #2: Don’t skip the parsley! It really adds something fresh and yummy to this dish!

Well Duh #3: DO NOT skip the breadcrumbs! Michael could not stop talking about the breadcrumbs! About how they added such a great crunch to the dish and how they really transformed the whole dish!

Well Duh #4: I don’t buy whole garlic. I’m sorry, but I can’t. Michael hates garlic so much that I don’t know what he would do if he saw a whole head of garlic cloves! So I buy a squeeze jar of minced garlic that I can hide in the refrigerator. It’s quick and easy – and Michael doesn’t come into the kitchen and smell my knife and ask if there’s garlic in the dish. (PSST! He didn’t even know there was garlic in this!!)

This dish was LOVED by the tribe – and my me! I already have cans of clams in the pantry so I can make it again soon! And I promise I won’t wait six months to make it this time!

And it TOTALLY proved my theory that you can add bacon to ANYTHING and my tribe will love it!

Step out of your comfort zone and make something new! This is a winner to help you start!

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