Pasta with Clams and Grape Tomatoes

This recipe was done entirely on the grill, but you can use an indoor range instead.

2 8-ounce packages of fresh tagliolini or fettucini (or 1 lb. dried pasta)

1/4 cup olive oil

2 medium size shallots, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup dry white wine

grape or cherry tomatoes (enough to fill about 2 cups)

about 4 - 6 dozen cherrystone or littleneck clams

clam liquid (from cooking the clams - should be about 1/2 cup) 

grated rind of one lemon

freshly ground black pepper

a handful of fresh parsley, minced

extra virgin olive oil to finish

red pepper flakes, if desired

Sauté the shallots in the olive oil over low heat. After they are slightly softened, add the tomatoes and cook until they almost burst open. Add the garlic and cook until softened.

Place the clams in a separate container in another part of the grill over high heat. Close the lid to the grill and let the clams cook, just until they open. It may take as little as two or three minutes for them to open up, depending on how hot your grill gets. When the clams start to open, remove each clam from its shell and place in a bowl, reserving about a dozen still intact to garnish on top. There should be a fair amount of liquid in the pan after they all open. Remove the pan from the heat and strain the clam liquid through a coffee filter.

Meanwhile, get the water boiling for the pasta. If you're using fresh pasta, it will take only a few minutes, just enough time to finish up the sauce.

In the pan with the shallots, tomatoes and garlic, add the strained clam juice and white wine. Cook for a few minutes, then add the clams and heat through a minute or two in the sauce. Drain the pasta (reserving a little of the pasta water to use in the sauce if necessary). Place the pasta in the pan with the sauce and add the lemon rind, freshly ground pepper and the parsley. Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and red pepper flakes, if desired. Serve in a large bowl with the clams in the shell as garnish on top.