“How we cling to our myths, we English”. The year is 1963, and in the intro to the first Penguin edition of this venerable tome, David is describing the disdain with which her countrymen viewed the culinary cultures of both France and Italy when she set about writing it, in 1954. Research for the book elicited in her a potent sense of discovery, and incredulity: “How wrong they had been, from Mrs Beeton down to my own contemporaries. Where had they been looking? Had they been looking at all?” Given the entrenched supremacy of Italian cookery on our contemporary menus – and the ubiquity of this book on our kitchen shelves – it borders on surreal to think there was a time, pre-David, when we might have been so collectively deluded. The four books that follow here can each be described as definitive, and best-selling, but one suspects they’d be neither, in this country, were it not for Elizabeth David and her ability to find gold, and, with such compulsion, to share it.
Clams vary in brininess and the amount of liquid they’ll release during cooking, so you’ll need to adjust the salt and add pasta water accordingly. To prevent the sauce from getting too salty, we recommend a measured amount of salt for the pasta water. If possible, look for an artisanal dried pasta for this recipe—the rougher surface texture will catch the slippery sauce better.