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Apulian Cooking
Spaghetti with clams and samphire A delicious recipe using sea aspargus, an extremely versatile plant rich in minerals.
No tomato, to give a more “marine” flavor, and a variation with shrimps from Gallipoli
by Dario Ersetti
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Spaghetti with clams and samphire. Photo by Dario Ersetti

Salicornia or samphire is a plant that lives on the seashore or near brackish water. It is also called sea asparagus (because it can be cooked in the same recipes), salissia in Salento, sausani in the Brindisi area, savzòdd in Gargano, savezudde, salsodda and sanzariello in the rest of Puglia. It is mostly found on the Ionian coast near Gallipoli, on the Adriatic coast around Brindisi and in Gargano. It is a plant full of minerals like iodine and bromide, has a high salt content and was once burnt to get sodium carbonate to be used in glass and soap making.

In spring the sprigs can be eaten raw in salad. In summer it is boiled in water and vinegar and the woody stems are stripped of their leaves, which can be used in a frittata or dressed with oil and lemon to be eaten in a salad.

In Gargano, samphire is usually preserved in oil to create an excellent antipasto. It is so widespread that the Region has included it in the list of Traditional Apulian Foods. However, if you decide to eat it, you should be aware of its high salt content.

In cooking it is also used on spaghetti aglio e oglio (not a mistake, this is quoted by maestro Buonassisi). If you want to go all out, you can use samphire’s typical salty, iodine taste to give a more “marine” flavor to clams or shrimps. And that is the recipe we’ve chosen today.

 

 

The recipe

 

4 servings:

 

- 300 g of spaghetti

- 500 g of clams

- 500 g of samphire

- 200 g of cherry tomatoes

- 1 clove of garlic

- 2 basil leaves

- salt

- extra-virgin olive oil 

 

Wash the samphire well and boil it in plenty of unsalted water. When it has cooled slightly, strip the leaves, eliminating the woody stems.

In a pan, cook the crushed garlic clove in oil until golden, add the tomatoes chopped in half and when their juice has been absorbed, add the clams and cover the pan until they open.

Meanwhile, boil the spaghetti al dente in plenty of salted water, drain it and throw it into the pan with the clams, samphire and basil. Gently mix on high heat to finish cooking the pasta and to blend the flavors. Carefully check for salt since samphire is quite salty. To get a more “marine” flavor, don’t use the tomatoes and add a spoonful of finely chopped parsley instead of the basil.

Clams can be replaced by Gallipoli shrimps without the tomato. Take off the shell of the shrimp tail, but leave the head on, throw them into the hot oil with garlic already golden and let them cook for two minutes then pour the pasta, samphire and chopped parsley into the pan, stir and serve.

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