Instant Improver

How to make the perfect pasta sauce

Ever since our student days, pasta has always remained a cheap and easy meal. A packet of penne and a jar of sauce and we were sorted. For a treat we might add some grated cheese but on the whole it was a simple and intermittently satisfying dish.

But now that we're full, bill-paying adults it looks like we might need an update. Enter Douglas Santi, head chef at Babbo restaurant in London, who has delivered this recipe which, despite sounding rather impressive, is also shockingly easy.

"Clams and mussels may not be something you would immediately think of cooking at home. But really they’re not as scary as you think, cheap and delicious and really easy to cook. This dish is perfect for this time of year – it’s so simple to prepare and will always go down well with your guests, a real-crowd pleaser.

"You may have bought your molluscs already cleaned – but if not check them for the beardy bits which they use to grip on to rocks and ropes (which they’re sometimes grown on) – you’ll need to rip these off before you cook them. If any are slightly open before you cook them give them a gentle tap on a hard surface. If they close again after a few seconds it means they’re still alive and good to eat, if not, it’s probably best to discard those ones."

Clams and mussels with fresh tomatoes, parsley and garlic

400g of fresh clams

400g of fresh mussels

200g of cherry wine tomatoes cut in a half

100ml White wine

1 clove garlic (1 teaspoon chopped)

A few sprigs of parsley (2 teaspoons chopped)

Olive oil

2 peperoncino (fresh chilli pepper)

Chop the garlic, parsley and tomatoes.

Put a big saucepan over a medium-high heat and add the oil, then the clams and mussels and peperoncino.

Cook for 1 minute then add the chopped garlic and tomatoes.

Cook for 2 minutes and add the wine.

Wait until the shells of the clams and mussels are open and then add the parsley.

No need to season, as the clams and mussels will give their own saltiness – just serve with fresh hunks of bread.

Douglas Santi, head chef at Babbo, www.babborestaurant.co.uk

(Image: All Star)