I generally avoid cream sauces in pasta because they're usually too rich for my tastes, but this linguine, which is topped with a spicy, crunchy, and bright fennel salad is the perfect balance between decadent and refreshing. You can replace the clams with mussels or shrimp, or make it a party and do a seafood combo! Thai chili peppers are quite spicy and can sometimes be unpredictably hot, so if you'd like to control the heat better, you may wish to replace with as much crushed red pepper as you like. I also prefer Meyer lemons (and they're being sold in grocery stores this time of year!) because they're less acidic than regular lemons. You can definitely use regular lemons though!
Skill Level: Easy
Time to Make: 1 hour 30 minutes
4 ounces diced pancetta
1 fennel bulb
3 Thai chili peppers, divided
2 Meyer lemons
4 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup chicken stock, plus more if needed
25 littleneck clams
1 14.5-ounce can of small white beans (such as Cannellini or navy beans)
1/2 cup heavy cream
16 ounces fresh or dried linguine
Handful of fresh parsley leaves, divided
Salt and pepper to taste
Extra virgin olive oil
Prep Ingredients: Scrub the clams and chill until ready to use. Remove the stalks from the fennel bulb and reserve the fronds. Slice the fennel bulb in half lengthwise. Thinly slice one half of the fennel and set aside in a medium bowl with a damp paper towel on top of it to keep it from browning. In a food processor, combine the other half of the fennel bulb, the garlic, and two of the Thai chili peppers. Pulse until finely chopped. Roughly chop the the parsley leaves. Finely chop the other Thai chili pepper. Using a vegetable peeler, shave off two wide strips of lemon zest and set aside. Juice the lemon. Slice the other lemon into wedges. Drain and rinse the beans and then drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Add the pancetta to a large, heavy bottomed bot. Turn the heat to medium high and cook for 10 minutes, or until all the fat has rendered and the pancetta is browned and crispy. Carefully remove the pancetta from the pot to a paper towel lined bowl, reserving the fat in the pot.
Add the finely chopped fennel, garlic, and Thai chili peppers and turn the heat to medium high. Cook, stirring frequently, until browned and softened, about 10 minutes. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, add juice from 2 of the lemon wedges to the bowl of sliced fennel. Add the other minced Thai chili pepper and half of the chopped parsley. Drizzle with extra virgin olive and salt and pepper. Stir to coat and set aside.
Add the chicken stock and lemon juice and strips of lemon zest to the pot and stir, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Carefully add the clams and then cover the pot. Cook for 5-7 minutes or until the clams have opened up. Remove the open clams and set aside in a medium bowl. If there are any unopened clams, leave them in the pot and cover and cook for an additional 4 or so minutes. Add them to the bowl with the other clams and discard any unopened clams.
Bring the broth to a boil and cook for 10 minutes or until reduced slightly. Add the beans to the broth and cook for an additional 10 minutes or until softened.
While the broth is boiling, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the noodles according to package instructions. Do not overcook the pasta. Al dente or slightly under is preferred. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water.
Once the broth has reduced, add the heavy cream and pasta water to the pot and stir to combine. Cook for 7-10 minutes or until thickened. Add the rest of the chopped parsley and the linguine and use tongs to coat the noodles in the sauce. Add the clams and cook until the clams have rewarmed a bit, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
To serve: Divide the pasta and clams between bowls. Top with a helping of the fennel salad and crispy pancetta and a few fennel fronds. Enjoy!
Designer and photographer living in NYC. I work as a design manager in ed tech and I make tasty recipes in my spare time!