Peeling The Onion- Layer 2: Spaghetti

In the last “layer” of our saga, our Hero Chip Cipolline entered the world with out realizing the amazing powers in his possession. Biding their time, beneath his papery skin. 

That first big growing season found him snuggled safely underground.  He was unaware of the great big culinary world around him and his storied place in it.

He’d sprouted up in this world feeling a bit unloved. An unknown. He’d heard some of the slurs against onions. “Onions are bitter. Onions smell bad. The only good onion is a Fried onion”!

But as it often does with super-heroes, fate stepped in. Circumstances beyond the control of our young Chip changed his destiny. Or should I say, fulfilled it…

Because he soon found himself violently yanked from the fertile earth that had kept him safe and warm. The soil that nourished him soon became lost to him. Somehow he knew he could never return.

The first inklings of his greatness began to make themselves known. He was often paired with two other legends of the vegetable world Cary Carrot and Celia Celery. Together they formed a small, but mighty Trinity and called themselves Mirepoix. 

They were an instant success. Together they saved soups and stews. They formed the basic foundation upon which great recipes were expertly balanced. 

As his confidence grew. He became aware that there were big things in store for him. He loved Cary and Celia, but as those with a date with destiny all know, eventually he had to go it alone. The sweetness inside of him needed to express itself. 

And that is where we last left him. Through the magic of roasting he had once again transformed himself. Now his strength came from a rich, intense sweetness. These creamy qualities, formerly hidden, were capable of not just transforming a dish; no these qualities could define that dish.

In this the second “layer” of our story, Chip and his new found level of rich, creamy sweetness will be conquering a culinary legend. That’s right pasta. Chip Cipolline, together with clams and garlic are going to join forces and make a sauce of outstanding proportions. 

But even the great powers of the humble onion need some support. And Chip has a secret weapon. Colatura di Alici, Garum to his friends, is widely known by Italian cooks and is finally making a name for itself elsewhere.

Colatura di Alici is like an Italian fish sauce. Similar to the concoction that transforms Thai cooking into fabled lore. 

It is still made much as it was in Roman times. Sardines, anchovies or pesce azzuro are left in wooden vats to decompose.

The subsequent concentrated fish oil is filtered and bottled.

It may not seem like an elixir worthy of our good friend Chip but it is transformative. Just the right ingredient to propel our Spaghetti with Clams, Cipolline Onions, Garlic and Colatura di Alici to indescribable glory.

Here is how it’s done:

1. In a large pot, bring to a boil 6 quarts of salted water. Add the spaghetti, stirring well at the beginning to prevent it from sticking together. Cook until al dente, about 8 minutes.

2. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large sauté pan. When hot, add shallots and garlic and sauté until soft and translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes.

3. Add the clams, cipolline onions, roasted garlic cloves and wine. Cover and simmer for 6 to 8 minutes or until the clams have opened.

4. Add 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, cayenne pepper and the Colatura di Alici.

5. Drain pasta in a colander. Place pasta into the sauté pan with the clams and mix thoroughly. Adjust seasoning.

6. Pour pasta into large serving bowl. Sprinkle with lemon zest, a big grind of black pepper and garnish with the remaining parsley. Serve immediately.

Like this story? Then say it: Gustoso!

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Greg Henry