Friday, June 11, 2010

Cannolichi: Razor Clams

I expected to not have a minute's sleep on the plane ride home to Rome and didn't even think I'd make my connection in Detroit. I ran like a bandit and just made it onto the plane as they shut the doors. And, miracle of miracles, the person next to me didn't make the flight which meant I got to stretch out (in a manner of speaking....) and get some sleep. I ate my dinner (yes, I really will eat anything), changed into comfortable clothes, put in my earplugs, put on my eye covers and slept.
It was so insufferably hot and humid in D.C. that I couldn't wait to get off the plane to a wonderful Roman day in June (also a bit hot & humid, by the way, but nothing by comparison).
As soon as my husband picked me up I asked him to take me to Fiumicino. (Fiumicino the port town, two minutes away from Fiumicino the airport.) I needed to smell the air, see people and have a tasty capuccino ((for me always scura and senza schiuma: dark, without foam) and cornetto.
That done we walked over to the fishing boats to have a look at fishermen off-loading their catch. The first thing that caught my eye was crate after crate of squiggling razor clams. Although they were inevitably destined for local restaurants one of the fishermen sold me just enough to make a great clam sauce for two.

There are numerous varieties of razor clams and they can look quite different. Some look like an elongated clam shell, but the variety we have in Rome look nothing like a clam. The peculiarity of our razor clam is that the shell is opened at both ends. You can (and should) touch the foot end of the clams to make sure they are alive before purchasing.
Razor clams are about 15 - 17 centimeters long. In our area razor clams are known as cannolicchi, but in the Marche and Veneto regions they're known as cappalonga. Mannicaio in Tuscany and arrasoias or gregus in Sardegna. These are all dialect names for the old-fashioned facial razor, as that's just what they look like:

Treat the razor clam just as you would any other fresh clam. Several hours before cooking put the clams in a cold salt water bath so they have plenty of time to rid themselves of any residual sand. After all, they spend most of their lives buried deep in the sand.
I served the clams with penne pasta. I made a simple but delectable sauce by sizzling garlic in olive oil and then adding some fresh plump tomatoes (peeled & chopped). After cooking these for several minutes I added the clams, which I'd previously cooked in a touch of olive oil just long enough for them to open up. Before adding the clams and their liquid to the tomato sauce I removed them from their shells. No salt is necessary; there's plenty in the clam liquid. Delicious!


  1. Okay, this is what I'm doing tonight!

  2. Wow! So many names for the cappalonghe! Thank you, I didn't know what was the translation from English!