Sun-Dried Tomato Tapenade Pasta with Cauliflower & Pistachios (Vegan Friendly)

I made this the last week for dinner and we liked it so much, that I made it again this morning to be able to take a proper picture of it and write the recipe. I really dislike the lack of natural light during these colder months but it was a good excuse to make pasta again. I can never have too much of it.

This recipe is super simple and quick to make. I chopped all the ingredients for the tapenade by hand just to have bigger chunks. But you can also do it in the food processor. I made it using anchovies because I like the umami flavour that they give. But if you are vegan or don’t like them, you can skip them.

Ingredients:

400grs of pasta, I used Mezzi Rigatoni

For the cauliflower:

1 small cauliflower, chopped into small pieces (about 4-5 cups)

3 tablespoons of olive oil

1 teaspoon of cayenne

1 teaspoon of celery salt

1 teaspoon of onion powder

For the sun-dried tomato tapenade:

3 tablespoons of olive oil

1 cup of sun-dried tomatoes, minced (from a can, preserved in olive oil)

1 tablespoon of capers, minced

1 clove of garlic, minced

½ cup of Kalamata olives, minced

6 anchovy filets, minced (optional)

1 ½ teaspoon of chilli flakes or more to taste

Salt to taste. When I use anchovies, I don’t add any salt as they are salty enough

For the toppings:

1/3 of a cup of toasted unsalted pistachios

5 tablespoons of finely chopped parsley

 

Start by making the cauliflower. Pour 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot; add the cauliflower, cayenne, celery salt and onion powder. Cook for about 6 minutes until it is cooked through and a bit charred. Don’t forget to stir from time to time.

To toast the pistachios, first finely chopped them. Then place them in a large pan over medium heat. Toast them without any oil for a minute or two while stirring. Make sure to keep an eye on it, so it doesn’t burn. Transfer them to a bowl and set them aside to cool down.

To make the sauce: mince the sun-dried tomatoes, capers, garlic and Kalamata olives. If you are using anchovies, mince them as well. If you want to save time, you can also use a food processor for this. This time I just chopped them by hand.

Cook the pasta of as instructed on the package.

While the pasta is cooking, start making the sauce. Poor 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the minced tomatoes, capers, garlic, Kalamata olives, chillli flakes and anchovies (if using). Cook for about 2 minutes while stirring. Once the pasta is ready, reserve a bit of the pasta water to loosen up the sauce. I reserved about ¼ of a cup. Add the pasta, cauliflower, and a bit of the pasta water to the sauce. Cook for one extra minute while mixing, until everything is combined. Add salt to taste if needed.

Serve the pasta with the toasted pistachios and parsley. I also like to add an extra sprinkle of chilli flakes. Enjoy!

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A Day at Walt Disney World Orlando

I have very fond memories of the Disney World parks in Orlando. I used to go there on vacation with my parents as a kid. It’s been 15 years since my last visit and this was Pieter’s first time at any of the Disney parks. So, we were both pretty excited to be there. We had one day-hopper tickets which meant we could visit all 4 theme parks in one day. We originally wanted to end the day at Magic Kingdom in order to watch the fireworks show at the end. But the day we went, they had an especial Halloween show which meant no fireworks. We decided to start at Magic Kingdom instead.

We arrived bout 15 minutes before the park opened. I do recommend to try to go on a weekday if you can, and arriving a bit before the park opens. Then you can go straight to the most popular attraction that you want to go to, and can skip the lines. After buying some souvenirs and taking a mandatory picture in front of Cinderella’s castle, we headed straight towards space mountain. I had forgotten how much fun rollercoasters are. We got some pineapple Dole Whip at Aloha Isle, which was very welcome since it was scorching hot that day. We also grabbed a Mickey pretzel with cheese sauce.

We then took the bus towards Disney’s Hollywood studios and headed straight towards the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.

We were too late to book a fast pass for this, so we waited about an hour in line. It was well worth it though. This was both our favorite ride that day. Then we went to Aerosmith’s rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. This was so much fun and we only waited in line for about 10 minutes. We had a corn dog and then took another bus towards Epcot center.

There was a Food & Wine festival at Epcot so we grabbed some bites to eat at a few stands.

Then I had some shaved ice at the Japan Pavilion. We had some funnel cake with powdered sugar. This was so good and I haven’t had it in ages. We walked through the rest of the countries and then finished it off by going on Mission Space.

We had an amazing day at Disney and loved going to the thrill rides.

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Kale & Harissa Roasted Chickpea Salad

We’ve been currently obsessed with harissa. I’ve been using it a lot to roast eggplants and chickpeas. And Pieter just discovered that he loves topping his goat cheese crackers with it. I posted this salad on my Instagram stories and I got so many requests for the recipe that I made it again today to write down the exact measurements.

This is a great fall/winter salad. It has a lot of bite to it and it is quite filling. We had it twice last week and I always make 4 portions so we can have the leftovers (without mixing all the dressing) the next day for lunch. This recipe is also vegan if you swap the honey for agave syrup. Happy #meatlessmonday!

This recipe serves 4.

Ingredients:

For the Harissa roasted chickpeas:

530grs of drained canned chickpeas (4 cups)

2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

2 heaped tablespoons of harissa paste, or more if you like it more spicy

2 tablespoons of agave syrup or honey

1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon of onion powder

1 teaspoon of celery salt

½ teaspoon of garlic powder

For the salad:

16 cups of shredded kale, or any other greens that you like (enough for 4 servings)

1/3 cup of pumpkin seeds, toasted

1/3 cup of pine nuts, toasted

1/2 cup of pomegranate seeds

For the shallot vinaigrette:

2 small shallots, finely shopped

½ cup of extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup of white vinegar

¼ cup of red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon of mustard

2 tablespoons of agave syrup or honey

1 teaspoon of salt

 

Start by making the harissa roasted chickpeas. Drain the canned chickpeas. Place the olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Add the chickpeas, harissa, agave or honey, balsamic vinegar, onion powder, celery salt and garlic powder. Mix well. Let it cook until it caramelizes and turns slightly brown. This will take about 12 minutes. Don’t forget to stir from time to time, especially towards the end. Otherwise it can burn easily because of the honey/agave. Taste if it needs any salt. Transfer the chickpeas to a bowl and set it aside.

Toast the pumpkin seeds and pine nuts in a pan with no oil, on medium heat. Toss constantly so that they don’t burn. This will only take a couple of minutes. Transfer them to a bowl and set it aside.

To make the vinaigrette, finely chop two small shallots. Place the shallots in a jar that has a lid. Then add the olive oil, white vinegar, red wine vinegar, mustard, agave or honey and salt. Close the jar and shake it until it emulsifies.

Once you are ready to eat, massage the kale with the vinaigrette for about a minute. This will soften the kale. If you are not serving the whole recipe, don’t mix all the kale with all the vinaigrette. Just mix the amount that you are going to eat right away. Serve it with the roasted chickpeas, pumpkin seeds, pine nuts and pomegranate seeds. Enjoy!

For more foodie inspiration, travel & lifestyle; you can follow me on Instagram and Facebook. For behind the scenes, more of Amsterdam and a peek of press events, you can follow my Instagram stories and Youtube channel.

 

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Peruvian Shrimp Risotto (with Aji Amarillo)

It’s already turning a bit chilly here, so comfort food is in order. This Peruvian risotto has a bit of a kick because of the Aji Amarillo chili paste (you can find it at Tijn’s toko here in Amsterdam, or online). I made a sauce using the shrimp heads and shells, so you can really taste the shrimp. It’s sort of a risotto with shrimp bisque. The flavors remind me of my childhood. That’s also why I served it with some fried calamari, besides just for added texture and flavor.

This recipe serves 3.

Ingredients:

For the risotto:

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 small white onion, finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

2 tablespoons of Aji Amarillo paste

800grs of shrimp, with the heads and shells

3/4 cup of White wine

1 ¾ cups of Arborio rice (risotto rice)

1 1/2 litters of vegetable stock

½ cup of cream

½ cup of grated Grana Padano (or Parmesan)

Salt to taste

For the shrimp sauce:

The shell of the tails and the heads of the shrimp

2 tablespoons of butter

¼ cup of white wine

2 cups of vegetable stock

Extras:

Olive oil or butter to cook the shrimp tails

1 tablespoon of chopped parsley

Fried calamari (optional), recipe here

Lime wedges for serving

 

First make the shrimp sauce. Remove the heads from the shrimp. Then peel and devein them. Keep the tail shells and the heads. Place the peeled shrimp tails back in the fridge.

In a large pan over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of butter. Once the butter has melted, add the shrimp shells and heads. Sautee them for about 1 minute. Then add the white wine. Let it reduce for one minute while stirring. Then add two cups of vegetable stock and let it reduce for 5 minutes. Then blend it all until smooth. Pass it through a fine mesh sieve. Set the sauce aside. Discard the solids.

Then start making the risotto. Place the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan over low heat. Once the pan is hot, add the onions. Cook for 4 minutes, until they are translucent (but not brown). Stir from time to time. Then add the garlic and the Aji Amarillo paste. Cook for 2 minutes while stirring. Add the rice, stir to coat it in the sauce. Then add the white wine and let it reduce for 30 seconds. Turn up the heat to medium-low. Add one ladle of the vegetable stock to the rice and stir until most of it evaporates. Repeat adding ladles of the stock and stirring for 15 minutes.

Finally add the shrimp sauce, grated grana Padano and cream. Cook for 5 minutes while stirring.  Turn off the heat.

In another pan, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil or butter. Add the shrimp tails and cook until they turn pink. Time will vary depending on the side of the shrimp, but they cook quite fast. Add salt to taste.

Serve the risotto into bowls, add the shrimp tails and sprinkle with some parsley. Serve it with some lime wedges. I also served it some fried calamari, this is optional but it goes really well with it. For the calamari; I just breaded it flour, then beaten eggs and finally in panko. If you want to have the full recipe (and how to clean the squid), you can check this recipe of mine. I just didn’t use cornmeal this time.

For more foodie inspiration, travel & lifestyle; you can follow me on Instagram and Facebook. For behind the scenes, more of Amsterdam and a peek of press events, you can follow my Instagram stories and Youtube channel.

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Cecconi’s Amsterdam

Cecconi’s is the recently opened Italian restaurant of the Soho House in Amsterdam. They serve hand-made pasta, seafood and dishes from Northern Italy. If you have never heard of Soho house, it’s a private club. They have locations in key cities all over the world. But you don’t have to be a member to come to the restaurant.

We were there at the press opening and tasted some of the chef’s selection. We ordered a few cocktails. Pieter’s favorite was the Ambrato Spritz which had St. Germain, Ambrato, mint and prosecco. My favorites were their Bellini and their Garibaldi sour. The Garibaldi sour was a mocktail with orange, homemade orgeat, flattened crodino, citrus and bitter.

For starters we had the burrata with tomato and basil, a classic topped with pistachio nuts. And the Vitello tonnato with caper berries which was also very tasty.

Our mains were the risotto with wild mushrooms, the lobster spaghetti and the veal Milanese. I loved the veal Milanese. It’s something I don’t eat very often but this one was very crunchy and perfectly cooked. The risotto was delightful. I’m a big fan of mushrooms and this one hit the spot.

For dessert, we shared a tiramisu and the profiteroles with pistachio ice cream and chocolate sauce. Both were amazing and not overly sweet.

Overall the service was really good, our waiter was very friendly and proud of the food he was serving. The portions are big, so you won’t go home hungry. If you want Italian comfort food, this is the place to go.

Cecconi’s Amsterdam

Spuistraat 210

1012VT, Amsterdam

For more foodie inspiration, travel & lifestyle; you can follow me on Instagram and Facebook. For behind the scenes, more of Amsterdam and a peek of press events, you can follow my Instagram stories and Youtube channel.

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Al Pastor Cauliflower Tacos (vegan)

The heat wave is finally over and we are back to good old cold Dutch summer weather. 35C weather is no fun when there is no air-conditioning and you have to work, but I was loving the 30C days. For the last few weeks we have been practically living of salads (the filling kind, not just lettuce). Not only because it was too hot to cook, but I was so busy with some styling projects that I didn’t have time or energy to cook dinner either.

But this week I took some time off and I actually had some me-time, which is something my body really needed. As someone who gets migraines when I am stressed, I really need to listen to my body. The past few weeks had been really draining physically. Which is why I took a break from posting on social media to just concentrate in my other projects and not overwork myself.

For this recipe, I bought all the Mexican ingredients at Tjin’s Toko close to the Albert Cuyp market. This  is a super easy meal and you can also cook the cauliflower in advance and just reheat it when you want to eat. Just blend all of the ingredients for the adobo sauce, grilled the pineapple, and just cook the cauliflower in a pan with the sauce. And it also happens to be vegan. You can top the tacos with any sauce that you like. This time I served them with some store-bought salsa verde. And I served them with some Hibiscus iced tea with lime.

This recipe makes 12 small tacos.

Ingredients:

For the adobo sauce:

3 teaspoons of dried Guajillo chili powder

1 teaspoon of dried oregano

2 Chipotle chilies in adobo sauce (comes in a can)

1 tablespoon of the abobo sauce from the chipotle chili can

1 tablespoon of achiote powder

1/4 cup of white vinegar

2 garlic cloves

½ white onion, roughly chopped

Pinch of cumin

Pinch of salt

¼ cup of fresh orange juice

1 clove

Extras:

1 large cauliflower, sliced into small florets

1 ripe pineapple (peeled, cored and sliced into pieces)

4 tablespoons of olive oil

12 small tortillas

A handful of coriander, chopped

Limes for serving

Sauce of your choice for serving, I used salsa verde

2 avocados, thinly sliced

 

To make the sauce, just blend all of the ingredients until you have a paste.

Mix the sauce with the cauliflower florets.

Heat up a large cast iron skillet and brush it with a bit of olive oil over medium-high heat. If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, just use a normal pan. Once the pan is hot, grilled the pineapple for a couple of minutes until it is a bit charred. Set them aside.

In a large pan over medium heat, add two tablespoons of olive oil. Then add half of the cauliflower. Cook for about 8-10 minutes, until the cauliflower is cooked but still has some bite and it is a bit charred. Don’t forget to stir from time to time. Wash the pan in between cooking the two batches because the remaining adobo from the first batch will burn. Then add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and cook the last batch of cauliflower.

Warm up the tortillas in a pan.

To serve, add a few slices of avocado to each tortilla. Then add some of the cauliflower, the the grilled pineapple and sprinkle some of the chopped coriander. Enjoy!

For more foodie inspiration, travel & lifestyle; you can follow me on Instagram and Facebook. For behind the scenes, more of Amsterdam and a peek of press events, you can follow my Instagram stories and Youtube channel.

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Crispy & Spicy Tofu Bánh Mì with Green Papaya Slaw

A mash-up Asian recipe which is very easy to make and perfect for this meatless Monday. The tofu is coated in a sambal marinade, and then coated in panko to seal in all the flavours. Served as a sandwich with a nice baguette and green papaya slaw. You’ve got crunchy, sweet, tangy and spicy. Umami all the way!

Last year we went on holiday to Thailand. I ordered green papaya salad as a side dish for lunch and dinner everyday while we were there. I love the sweet, tangy and spicy combination. Plus it was so cheap there, I might as well indulge in my cravings. My green papaya salad recipe is a bit different, I skipped on the beans and tomatoes. I wanted to keep it more like a slaw, but it is still bursting with flavor. You can find green papaya at most Tokos (Asian stores) in Amsterdam. I bought this one at the Honk Kong store on the Kinkerstraat. I also wrote a Grocery & Market Amsterdam Guide in case you are new here and want to know where to find specific ingredients. You can see the guide here.

I love tofu. But for me I always have to season it well, since it is quite bland on its own. Last week I received some sambals from my friend Lily. Her parents own an Asian store in the south of Holland called Amazing Sang Lee. They are known for making delicious Sambal and they now sell about 20 different varieties. I wanted to incorporate their Taotjo sambal into a recipe. And I came up with this one. I made a marinade with the sambal and coated the tofu in it. Then I coated it in panko to give it some crunch and seal in the marinade. The result is so delicious. This tofu in itself doesn’t need anything else. You can just snack on it like that. But since I wanted to make it into a whole meal, I turned it into a Bánh Mì sandwich.

This recipe serves 4.

Ingredients:

For the crispy & spicy tofu:
300grs of firm tofu for frying
3 tablespoons of Taotjo Sambal (or the sambal of your preference), you can add more if you like it more spicy
4 tablespoons of sesame oil
2 teaspoons of soy sauce
2 teaspoons of honey or agave
2 teaspoons of white vinegar
1 teaspoon of onion powder
1 teaspoon of celery salt
½ a teaspoon of garlic powder

For the tofu coating:
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups of panko breadcrumbs
1 cup of all-purpose flour

For the green papaya slaw:
1 green papaya (about 600grs) shredded, gives about 4-5 cups
1/2 cup of toasted unsalted peanuts, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 bird’s eye chili (or more to taste), minced
1 cup of shredded carrot
Juice of 2 limes
2 tablespoons of fish sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons of brown sugar (you can also use palm sugar)

Extras:
Coriander leaves
2 baguettes
About ¾ of a cup of vegetable oil to fry the tofu
About 3 cups of mixed greens (lettuce)

 

First remove the tofu from its packaging. Pat it dry with a paper towel to remove the excess moisture. Then slice it into 1cm thick pieces. I prefer them not too thick because this way, you get a more balance bite of crunch, marinade and tofu.

To make the marinade: Mix the sambal with the rest of the ingredients. Brush each slice of tofu with the marinade on both sides. Place it in the fridge while you make the slaw.

To make the green papaya slaw: Peel the skin off the papaya. Then shred it. I used my mandoline with the julienne attachment. But you can also use a grater if you don’t have a mandoline.

In a big bowl, mix the chili with the garlic, lime juice, fish sauce and sugar. Mix it well, trying to dissolve the sugar as much as possible. Then add the shredded green papaya and carrot. Mix well until everything is coated in the sauce. Then add the peanuts. Mix well.

To make the coating for the tofu: Have the beaten eggs in one bowl, the flour in another and the panko in the last bowl. Take the tofu out of the fridge. Grab a piece and coat it in the flour, be careful not to remove any of the sambal marinade. Then coat it in the beaten egg and finally in the panko. Repeat for all.

Pour about ¾ of a cup of vegetable oil in a large pan over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, fry the tofu in batches. Fry until golden on both sides. This will only take a few minutes, so keep an eye on it.

To assemble each sandwich, first add a layer of mixed greens. Then add the green papaya slaw. Finally add the crispy tofu and top with some coriander leaves. Serve right away. Enjoy!

For more foodie inspiration, travel & lifestyle; you can follow me on Instagram and Facebook. For behind the scenes, more of Amsterdam and a peek of press events, you can follow my Instagram stories and Youtube channel.

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Summer Afternoon Tea at the Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam

Every year the Waldorf Astoria in Amsterdam creates a special high tea menu for the summer.

This year’s theme is inspired by the coastal piers and charming beach towns of the USA. They offer a whimsical and more elaborate version of fun fair treats.

It started with a green tea and cranberry slushy. This was perfect to cool us down since we biked to the hotel and today felt like proper summer.

The amuse was a nori cone with tomato, avocado, crispy rice & soya. I love Asian flavors and I could have easily eaten a few more of this.

Then came the savory bites. A gingerbread horse with Foie gras paté and a smoked salmon sandwich with asparagus & cream cheese. And what’s a fun fair without some fast food? We also had a mini chicken burger with Thai basil & cucumber relish. And a mini hotdog with compote of red onions, crispy sauerkraut & mustard. Comfort food at its best!

The sweets entailed of a vanilla & strawberry clown shaped macaron, a unicorn shaped cassis & lemon sable, a popcorn cupcake, a tropical financier shaped like a donut, a lavender & apricot choux with cotton candy, and Taffy apples. My favorite from here was the donut since it has passion fruit, pineapple and mango. I just love that combination.

And just when you think you can’t eat any more, they came and served the most fluffy and soft vanilla & chocolate scones with clotted cream and jams. The tea served during this theme is the Chinese supreme rose tea. I loved it, it was very delicate.

The whole high tea was amazing and the service was great, as you would expect from the Waldorf Astoria. Just have a light lunch before you come because you will definitely leave with a full but happy stomach.

This summer afternoon tea is served daily at their Peacock Alley from 3 to 5pm until August.

Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam

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Jansz Rosé Sundays

Dining al fresco overlooking a canal is as Amsterdam as it gets. And the weather today was a perfect excuse to do just that.

Starting from today Jansz will have Rosé Sundays every first and third Sunday in June, July and August. If you have never heard of Jansz, it is one of the restaurants of the beautiful Pulitzer hotel. It has two terraces outside, so you can dine overlooking the Keizersgracht canal.

They offer a especial BBQ menu from the Big Green Egg. We had the smoked salmon with egg salad and crouton which was really good. ½ BBQ lobster with orange mayonnaise and vitelotte potato. I loved this, it reminded me a bit of Peruvian causa Limeña. For dessert we had a raspberry dish with a macaron base, fresh raspberries and a sorbet.

And of course, it wouldn’t have been a Rosé Sunday without some wine. They served the MIP Rosé, a wine from Provence, with notes of red fruit and citrus.

This was a great and delicious way to spend a sunny afternoon.

Jansz Rosé Sundays

First & third Sunday in June, July & August

From 12pm to 5pm (Their regular lunch menu is also available during this time)

For more foodie inspiration, travel & lifestyle; you can follow me on Instagram and Facebook. For behind the scenes, more of Amsterdam and a peek of press events, you can follow my Instagram stories and Youtube channel.

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Spaghetti Alle Vongole

This is one of my favorite pasta dishes and an Italian classic. I hardly ever order it at a restaurant just because it takes no effort to make at home. It is prepared in about 15 minutes. By the time the pasta is cooked, the vongole is ready and you just have to combine it all.

As cravings go with me, most of the times they don’t disappear like they do for my hubby. They keep hunting me until I satisfy them. A couple of years ago, we were in Italy on holiday. On our last dinner there, I saw this dish on the menu and all of the sudden I had to have it. Unluckily for me, they were sold out! As soon as we were back home, I went to get some vongole and made the dish at home.

I’ve been craving vongole lately so I have made this dish 3 times in the past month. If you are not familiar with cooking vongole, make sure that the shells are not open when you buy it. You’ll discard of the ones that are open, so you want to get your money’s worth. I like to squeeze some lemon juice in the end, even though it is traditionally not added. I made it last on a Saturday in which after running errands all day, I didn’t feel like spending much time cooking. It was gone in less than 5 minutes. Yes, I eat very fast!

This recipe serves 2.

Ingredients:

500gr of Vongole

2 cloves of garlic, minced

14 cherry tomatoes, cut in half

½ bunch of parsley, chopped

250ml white wine

2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

260gr of spaghetti

Chili flakes to taste

Salt to taste

Pepper to taste

Juice of 1 lemon (optional)

 

Rinse the vongole under cold water for a couple of minutes. Discard of any that are open and don’t close when you tap them.

Mince the garlic, cut the cherry tomatoes in half and chop the parsley.

Cook the pasta as instructed on the package.

While the pasta is cooking, add the olive oil to a large pan with a lid. Over medium heat, add the garlic and tomatoes. Cook for about 2 minutes. Then add the vongole and the white wine. Cover with the lid and let it cook till the vongole start to open, about 4 minutes. Stir. Discard of any that haven’t opened. Turn the heat off.

By this time the pasta should already be done. Add the drained pasta to the pan with the vongole. Add salt, pepper and chili flakes to taste. Then add the lemon juice and parsley. Stir until everything is combined. Serve right away.

For more foodie inspiration, travel & lifestyle; you can follow me on Instagram and Facebook. For behind the scenes, more of Amsterdam and a peek of press events, you can follow my Instagram stories and Youtube channel.

 

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