2 pounds fresh cockles or littleneck clams, scrubbed clean (or 2 cans baby clams)
3 tablespoons EVOO
3 to 4 anchovy fillets
5 to 6 large cloves garlic, grated or chopped
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped, or 2 teaspoons dried
1 lemon, zested and halved
Chile paste or crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup white wine or dry vermouth
4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter
1 big handful of fresh parsley (about 1 cup), chopped
1 pound linguine
1 handful of micro celery or celery tops, chopped
If using fresh clams or cockles, put them in a bowl of iced salted water and let them sit for 30 minutes. Drain.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta.
Put the clams in a large pot over medium heat. Add about ½ cup water, cover, and steam until the shells open and release their clam juice (liquor, as it’s called), 3 to 5 minutes, then turn off the heat.
In a large pan, heat EVOO (three turns of the pan) over medium-low heat. Add anchovies and gently stir until they melt. Add garlic, thyme, lemon zest, and chile paste or pepper flakes and stir. Add wine, turn up the heat to medium, and simmer until sauce is reduced by half.
Salt the pot of boiling water and add pasta.
Working over a bowl to catch the clam liquor, remove about three-quarters of the clam meats from their shells. Transfer the remaining clams in their shells to a plate.
Squeeze both lemon halves into the sauce. Add the butter and half the parsley. Add the reserved clam liquor and shelled clams to the pan sauce.
Cook the pasta just shy of the package directions for al dente, then drain, add to the sauce, and finish cooking. Add the micro celery and garnish with the reserved clams in the shell. Finish with the remaining parsley.