Linguine with Clams, Shrimp, and Spinach
If you have young children and you’re like me, you dream of the day when your kids start eating shellfish. The first hurdle is allergies—you hope that they don’t bust out into hives or something far more nightmarish. There’s a little voice in the back of your head wondering if you are about to poison your child the first time you give them any foods that could cause these reactions. But once that hurdle is crossed, the usual first response is of a look of wonderment that quickly turns into “WHAT THE HELL AM I EATING?” and ends with a mushy bite regurgitated onto the plate or other nearby receptacle, probably your hand.
Something magical happened last Easter at my dad’s: Phoebe ate shrimp cocktail. And I don’t mean one shrimp, she ate around a dozen. No cocktail sauce, mind you, but we were starting to get looks from other people wondering if she would save any shrimp for us. Willa has been a little tougher about shellfish (which is funny, since she’s really more easygoing with trying things). But last night, success! Not only did they both eat dinner, they both ate clams! Out of a shell! Bellies and all! It was amazing.
I’ve tried cooking this dish several times now and the girls made it through the pasta each time but usually left a bowl full of seafood and spinach in their wake. This time, we had clean bowls and the endorsement we always look for after a meal: “I wanna have this dinner again!” before darting off to play with their Magna-Tiles.
This recipe is basically an elevated way of making linguine with white clam sauce—a little soupier and with the addition of shrimp and spinach. The key to this dish is in properly cooking the shrimp and clams. It might seem a little fussy to remove the clams during the cooking process, but if you don’t do that you’re left with rubber bands; and if you don’t add the shrimp at the right time, they become mealy and tasteless. Also, it’s worth buying fresh linguine for this dish (or if you are better person than I am, making it from scratch).
- 1 lb. fresh linguine
- 1/4 c. olive oil
- 1 shallot, minced
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
- 1/4 c. dry white wine
- 8 oz. jar of clam juice
- 1-1/2 lb. cockles or other small clam (smaller than littlenecks if you can!)
- 1/2 lb. medium shrimp, preferably wild; peeled and cleaned
- 1 oz. fresh basil, chopped
- 2-1/2 oz. baby spinach very roughly chopped—large pieces are okay
- 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, halved
- Juice from 1/2 lemon
- Bring a pot of well-salted water to a boil for the linguine. If you have fresh linguine you won't cook this until near the end. If using dry, go ahead and start cooking as soon as you hit the boil.
- In another large pot, heat the olive oil over high heat. Before it begins to smoke, add the shallot, garlic, and crushed red pepper.
- After a minute or so, add the clams and stir. Next add the wine and cook for one minute until the alcohol cooks off. Add the clam juice and return to a simmer.
- As soon as each of the clams opens wide, remove them to a bowl with a pair of tongs or a slotted spoon. Some will take longer to open than others, so remove them as it happens. If some stay closed, you'll want to throw those out.
- If you are using fresh linguine, drop it into the pot of water now.
- In the pan you cooked the clams in, add the shrimp, basil, and spinach and stir. As soon as it hits a simmer again, add the butter and continue stirring so that it blends into the sauce. When the butter has finished melting the shrimp should be cooked. Add the lemon juice, stir, and set aside.
- Cook the pasta al dente and drain. Add it into the sauce, along with the reserved clams and any juice that may have pooled into the bowl, and serve.
- Note that you do NOT need to add any additional salt to this dish beyond what you are using in the pasta water.
- As seen in the picture, I fully removed the shrimp shells so they were less of a distraction for the kids. I also didn't bother to clean the shrimp. You can leave the shells fully on, just the tails, clean the shrimp...whatever floats your boat.
- The amount of spinach is half of the typical clamshell package sold in most US supermarkets. You can even use up the entire package if you like spinach, or dream of your kids liking spinach.
- Cooking time does not include getting your water to a boil. Put yer pot on as soon as you get home.