a casual and rustic spring pasta with clams, lemon butter & breadcrumbs
Pour the flour onto a clean surface or into a large, shallow bowl. Make a well in the center. Add the egg yolks to the well, along with the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of water. Use a fork to whisk the yolks, oil, and water, gradually starting to pull the flour into the liquid. Continue to whisk until the flour seems to have absorbed all of the liquid. Set the fork aside and start to use your hands to bring the dough together, adding more water if needed (I’ll usually end up using 2-3 tablespoons total). At this point, it will seem like the dough is too dry, but you just need to keep working it with your hands, pressing all of the pieces together.
When you finally have a workable ball of pasta dough, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, or until smooth. Shape the dough into a ball and wrap it in plastic wrap. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Alternatively, refrigerate the dough for up to 3 days and then pull it to room temperature for 45 minutes before rolling.
Cut the dough into 4 pieces. Use a pasta machine to roll out each piece of dough into thin sheets, about 1/16”, working from the thickest setting down to your desired texture (I go from setting 1 to setting 5 on the Kitchen Aid machine). Place the sheets on a floured surface and keep covered. While you roll out each piece of dough, make sure the rest of the dough remains covered as well, so it does not dry out. Once all of the sheets are formed, change the attachment on the pasta machine to the fettuccine cutter. Run the sheets of pasta through the machine to create fettuccine noodles. Keep the dough floured to prevent sticking and covered to prevent drying.
Place the bread in a food processor and pulse until fine crumbs form. In a small sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and let toast until golden and slightly crisp. If the crumbs appear dry, melt in a little more butter. Stir in the lemon zest and red pepper flakes. Season the breadcrumbs with salt to taste and set aside.
Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil. Sauté the vegetables one at a time, starting with the leeks. Add the leeks to the hot oil, season with a good pinch of salt, and let cook until tender and slightly caramelized. Transfer the leeks to a plate. Repeat with the fennel, then the asparagus, and then the mushrooms.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the fresh pasta into the water and cook for just about 2-3 minutes. Ladle about 4 cups of the starchy pasta water out into a bowl and reserve. Drain the pasta.
Simultaneously, wipe out the vegetable pan and add the 4 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Let melt. Add the clams to the pan. Cover the pan with a lid and let the clams cook until they open (as soon as they open, they are done), shaking the pan often. Transfer the clams to a plate and cover with foil.
To the butter and residual clam juice, add about 3 cups of the reserved pasta water from above (save the remaining cup in case the sauce gets too thick). Let simmer for about 5 minutes until reduced. Add the drained pasta into the pan and toss to coat. Let the sauce cling to the pasta as it reduces even more, stirring often. Once fully incorporated, stir in the lemon juice, heavy cream, and remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Season the pasta with salt to taste.
Plate the pasta with the clams on top, spooning a little bit of sauce over each clam. Garnish with the breadcrumbs, a sprinkle of chopped chives, and some torn mint.