When a single bottle of wine does double-duty as cooking ingredient and dinner drink, it’s a definite winner. That’s been true for ages with Italy’s classic Fettuccine with Clams. Amalia Scatena, executive chef of Cannon Green in Charleston, South Carolina, knows that intimately. Born and raised in a close-knit Italian family in San Francisco, she went on to train professionally as a chef at the Advanced Culinary Arts Professional Program from the Culinary Institute of Florence. While living in Italy, she learned first-hand how closely entwined food and wine are at every meal. Wine was always served, but it was often used in cooking too.
Amalia embraces that connection in her warming Fettuccine with Clams and modernizes it by using Josh Cellars Chardonnay. She steams open the clams with melted butter and bright, acidic chardonnay to cut through the butter’s richness. The complex dry wine is enriched with the butter and the sea-salty and sweet juicy little clams. To enhance that irresistible combination, Amalia opts for fresh fettuccine over dried. Not only does it cook in half the time, it also has a delicate al dente chew. She lifts the noodles straight out of the pot and into the pan with the clams so that the cooking water clinging to the strands mingles with the wine sauce and enriches it. Once the fettuccine is generously slicked with the sauce, Amalia mixes in Calabrian chiles. When she lived in southern Italy, she remembered seeing the Calabrian chiles offered as a condiment everywhere and she loves the bit of heat they bring to the dish.
Amalia tops the whole tangle of fettuccine and clams with a trio of parsley, dill, and tarragon. The anise notes of the tarragon and the fresh bite of the parsley and dill pair beautifully with the citrus notes of the wine. With this warming dish, Amalia forgoes individual plating in favor of serving it family-style. And she pours the rest of the chardonnay to go with the meal. Largely sourced from Monterey, California grapes, which has a cooler growing season than Napa, Josh Cellars Chardonnay is especially elegant and refreshing with its hints of vanilla and soft, rounded mouthfeel. Amalia loves tasting the citrus notes of the subtly oaked wine straight from the glass between each bite of dish where the wine has married with all the other ingredients.
Even though Joseph Carr, the founder of Josh Cellars, didn’t grow up with this dish, he has fond memories of it. He made fettuccine with clam sauce on his first date with the woman who became his wife. Needless to say, they enjoyed it with the wine they used for cooking too…and the rest is history.