My friend, Karen, is my inspiration here. She is gently finding a path through how best to help her mother move through the aging process. These days, that involves soup. Lots of soups. It struck a chord because of one of my father’s favorite dinners that I would make for him. Aside from the fact that it really is a wonderful pasta dish, it held such a long-standing familiarity for him that I suspect it anchored him to times past that were good.
Karen explains that soups are easy for her mother to eat. And we all know of their universal comfort. The evenings over which this long-distance typed conversation continued planted a thought: what if I took a favorite pasta sauce and turned in into a soup? Karen and her mother live on the half of the globe that is moving into fall and winter. It isn’t winter here, though you’d never know it by the weather. Memorial Day Weekend can be fickle. I’m considering taking it personally. Wherever I’ve lived over the past many years, it can be hot as summer or cold as October. This one is looking more like November. In the space of about an hour yesterday morning, the temperature dropped from 45 to 36 degrees. Rain hammered down all day, and the wind was just plain insulting. The dogs woke me up to go outside in the wee hours of the morning, and kleenex-size flakes of snow were blanketing everything. Today promises to be just as wet. It all adds up to a soup and sweatpants sort of day.
MINCED CLAM & PASTA SOUP
3 cloves garlic, smashed, peeled, minced
1 can minced clams (6.5 ounces)
1 bottle clam sauce (8 ounces)
16 ounces chicken stock (your own or a good organic one)
1/2 package linguine or thin spaghetti broken into 2″ pieces
Generous handful of Italian parsley, chopped
Sea or kosher salt and grinds of pepper to taste
1 good baguette
- Have all of your containers open. Things happen quickly.
- Film a saucepan with olive oil and warm it over medium heat. When hot, the oil will shimmer, or form ribbons; add the garlic. Sauté until very fragrant, but do not let it brown. As soon as you get that heavenly, deep aroma of cooking garlic, add the bottle of clam juice to cool the pot. Also use the lid of the can of clams to strain of their juice, and add the chicken stock. Bring to a simmer. Cover the pot about 3/4 of the way so that the liquids can concentrate a bit. Simmer for 10 minutes. Set a timer.
- When the timer goes off, add the broken pieces of pasta. Set a timer for 2 minutes less than the suggested cook time on the package. When the timer goes off, add the parsley and clams. Cook just until the clams are heated through; if cooked any longer, they’ll be like eating little pencil erasers. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
- Ladle into bowls. Top with as much Parmesan cheese as you like. Serve with chunks of baguette and a good book.