My friends always seem curious about the kind of stuff I feed my family. Something about my background—I’m a Gourmet Magazine alum, trained as a chef, and I have two small kids—makes them seem to think I must have a magical formula for tasty dinners that come together quickly. And I do—but not really for any of those reasons. It has more to do with my own lifelong drive to make good food a daily event, and a lack of snobbery about how to get there.
In any case, pasta with clams and a side of garlicky broccoli rabe is a dinner that, if you really want some magical tips, capitalizes on two crucial speed-cooking principles: one, that most vegetable sides taste just fine (or even better) at room temperature (read: you get to cook the broccoli rabe ahead!) and two, that since both dishes require two pans (big pot full of boiling water plus saute pan), it’s way less annoying to cook them in the same pans, rather than ending up with four large dirty pans when you’re done. Let’s face it, there’s a lot of detritus at the end of clam night (the big bowl of shells; the oily sauce all the way up to the kids’ elbows), so minimizing the kitchen mess will make you feel like a rock star.
I often make broccoli rabe on a night that I’m also making pasta, so that I can give it a quick blanch in the pot of boiling water. Retrieve your greens with some tongs. Then cook them in a sautee pan coated with generous olive oil heated gently with some garlic cloves, and turn them out onto a serving plate.
No need to wash the sautee pan before you start the sauce: while boiling the pasta, sautee some more garlic in olive oil, then add a little white wine and the fresh clams, turn up the heat, and cover it. Remove clams as they open up, and finally toss the cooked pasta in with the sauce. Every dish of pasta gets a crown of clams, and the olive oil from the broccoli is just as satisfying to sop up with some crusty bread as the pasta sauce itself.