Prep: Soak the clams in salted water for 1 to 2 hours to make them spit out the sand. Finely chop the garlic and anchovies. Slice the chili pepper into thin rounds.
Put the olive oil, garlic, ancovies and chili pepper into a pan and cook slowly over low heat for 3 to 4 minutes until fragrant.
When the olive oil starts to make cracking sounds, add the parsley and clams. Add the white wine, cover with a lid and steam-cook over low heat.
When about half the clams have opened up, remove the lid and start taking the clams out, starting with the opened ones. As you take them out the other clams should open up too.
When all the clams have been removed, add the canned tomatoes and 1-2 ladles full of pasta cooking water to the same pan. Simmer over medium-high heat until reduced.
(Adjust the amount of cooking water depending on the saltiness of the sauce).
Put the clams back into the pan, along with the cooked pasta (cooked for 1 minute less than package directions). Add plenty of garlic powder.
(The pasts absorbs the sauce right away, so mix it up immediately and quickly.)
Transfer to serving plates, drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil, and enjoy.
Story Behind this Recipe
This is a pasta dish using early-spring asari clams, when they're at their best. If you don't add tomato sauce, it's vongole alle bianco. If you stop at Step 4, you have wine-steamed clams. Since it is a basic, I made it slowly and carefully.
The important steps are steps 2 and 3. Be sure to cook the garlic, anchovies, chili pepper and clams slowly over low heat. If you take the clams out once they've opened, you can prevent them from toughening and retain their juicy plumpness. The sauce is salty, so the pasta boiling water is not salted.