SPAGHETTI ALLE VONGOLE (Spaghetti with cockles)

Vongole is the Italian word for cockles and pipis. When I lived in South Australia there were large succulent cockles that come from Goolwa, Middleton and the Coorong. In Victoria we call them pipis and they are found around the southern Victorian coastline.

Before you get excited about harvesting cockles from beaches you need to be aware that there are strong regulations for the harvest of these succulent little morsels because their numbers have been reduced significantly. It is positive to see that restrictions have been placed on the mechanical harvesting and numbers of licenses issued for the commercial fishing of cockles and there are now open and closed seasons to allow some of the stock to recuperate.

The above applies in South Australia and in Victoria and may be the case in other Australian states and in other parts of the world and it does not apply only to commercial fishers.

From Fisheries Victoria:
Although it is recognised in both states that fishers and families from a diverse range of backgrounds enjoy collecting pipis, either for food or bait, The reduced catch limit will help to ensure that access is shared among recreational collectors.

(The reduced daily catch limit of 2 litres with shells and half a litre without shells).

From Australian Marine Conservation Society (think twice classification):Cockles and Pipis
Notes: Harvested by hand from mud and sand flats; impact of intense localised harvesting unknown; uncertain stock status for all species; significant population fluctuations due to environmental factors; Pipi catches and catch rates in NSW have declined significantly in recent years.  

I bought 1 kilo and fed 4 people. As much as I like this dish, (and so did my guests), this is all I will eat this season- it will help me to appreciate them even more next season.

I use a large frypan to ensure more even cooking.

spaghetti, 500g
vongole, 1kg
extra virgin olive oil, ½ cup
garlic, 3-4 cloves crushed
chili flakes or 1 fresh, red, deseeded and chopped finely
parsley, 1 cup, cut finely
dry white wine
Rinse the vongole, rubbing to remove sand, and discard any open ones that don’t close after being gently squeezed or tapped (see above).
Cook the pasta.
Heat the olive oil then fry the garlic and chili lightly.
Add the vongole and parsley and shake pot for 1-2 minutes.
Add wine, cover and gently cook for a few minutes until the cockles are open — discard any that are not open and those that are empty.
Remove some cockle meat from the shells for ease of eating (I do not always do this).
Drain the pasta and combine with the vongole. Gently mix the spaghetti through the sauce.

SPAGHETTI CON PESCE E POMODORINI (Spaghetti with fish and cherry tomatoes)

It will be maccheroni, I swear to you, that will unite Italy.”

Giuseppe Garibaldi, on liberating Naples in 1860

When eating in Italy, the usual structure of the meal will consist of two courses. Il primo (the first ) will be a soup, risotto or pasta and in Sicily (and in the south of Italy) it is more likely to be pasta

Il secondo (the second) is the main course – the protein component and one contorno (vegetable side dish) or two contorni.

There have always been two courses in my mother’s home, and in the homes of our Italian friends and relatives. Although this is not something that I have continued to observe in my own household, I generally prepare a primo and a secondo when I am cooking for friends. If this is the case, as is the customary practice in Italian homes, nibbles can just be a very simple plate of olives (or the like) and the dessert, fresh fruit.


These days, I am into easy recipes, something I can prepare in minutes.

Eating pasta with fish is still not very popular in Australia (at the time of writing) but it is very much so in Italy and of course – Sicily. It is an island after all.

Spaghetti is usually the preferred shape of pasta for fish sauces.

Cherry tomatoes appear to have become very common in restaurants in Italy in the last few years. They are called pomodorini, or cigliegini in Italian and most commonly known as pizzitelli in Sicilian – little things.

Some of the cherry tomatoes in Australia may be small but they lack flavour and sweetness (maybe from over watering if this is possible in Australia). One of my friends in Adelaide is growing a variety called currant tomatoes in pots – very small and sweet and ideal for this dish.

Use any fish which will hold together when you sauté it.

Sicilians prefer tuna or swordfish, but because I like to use sustainable fish (pesce sostenibile) I select Albacore tuna when I can get it, tailor or flathead or snapper and mackerel . To keep the fish moist and to prevent it from overcooking, i keep the fish in large pieces when I cook it and then break it up onto smaller pieces.

From Australia’s Sustainable Seafood Guide by Australian Marine Conservation Society – 2009 (AMCS)


spaghetti, 500g
fish, 500g, cut into dice
garlic, 5 cloves, chopped finely
cherry tomatoes, 1 punnet, if too big cut in half,
extra virgin olive oil, 1 cup
fresh herbs, use either: a handful of basil or parsley, or fresh mint,
white wine, 1 glass
salt and freshly ground pepper (or chilli flakes)
Cook pasta and make sauce as it cooks.
Heat the oil in a frying pan.
Sauté the fish ( you can keep it all in one piece if you wish), add the cherry tomatoes. Remove the fish and tomotoes from the pan but leave the juices in the pan.
Add the white wine and reduce .
Add the herbs and stir through the sauce.
Return the fish and tomatoes to the pan. Separate the fish into the size pieces that you wish.
Drain the pasta and return to the pan where it was cooked.
Mix in the sauce and serve.