Linguine with Clams – Linguine alle Vongole

By 7 m read

Linguine with Clams (Photo by Viana Boenzli)
(Photo by Viana Boenzli)

Linguine with clams – “Linguine alle vongole.” Say it out loud, a couple times in a row. It just sounds so good. You can even say it using your hands (pressing your thumb on the index and middle fingers: “Linguine alle Vongole, capeesh?” 

 

Clam Recipes – Which One Is Best?

Of course, we’re talking about linguine with clams. A classic Italian dish that I’ve been making for many years. I went through many different versions: Lemon or no lemon, in the shell or off the shell, spaghetti or linguine, butter or olive oil, etc. 

Linguine with Clams (Photo by Viana Boenzli)
(Photo by Viana Boenzli)

As with so many other things in life, we somehow always end up where we started. But better. And that’s a good thing. 

 

So was my linguine with clam sauce journey. Although I came up with some pretty exciting and fantastic tasting tweaks for a pasta dish with clams, finally, our visit to southern Italy a couple of years ago sealed the deal. We had linguini with clams nearly every day. And they all had one thing in common: simplicity. Let the ocean talk. Don’t cut down on the flavor by adding lemon juice. And, of course, extra-virgin olive oil and white wine, no butter. 

 

What Pasta Shape Is Best

Linguine works best for me. When tossed in the pan with the clams and the clam sauce, the linguine gets coated with the right amount of sauce, a perfect balance. If you prefer spaghetti or vermicelli, go right ahead. I wouldn’t recommend bucatini for a clam sauce, though. As delicious as they are, they work better with more tomato- and meat-based sauces.

 

Clams (And How To Purge Them) 

Most clams you’ll buy nowadays have been purged of sand. But if your clams do happen to be sandy, no worries, it won’t end up in your sauce. If you see sand in the cooking liquid after draining the clams first (see below), filter it out by pouring the liquid through a coffee filter. 

 

You can also first soak your clams in salted water for about 20 minutes. The clams will clean themselves. If you’re not sure if they’re clean, repeat. 

 

I’m not too fond of this method, though. You’ll lose all the briny goodness from the sea that’s hiding inside the closed clam. 

 

How Do I Know The Clams Are Fresh?

Some people are hesitant to use live seafood in their kitchen because of potential problems. Eating a bad calm – or any bad seafood for that matter – is no fun. With live shellfish, there’s a simple method I’ve been using for decades, and have never ended up with a bad shellfish in my dish:

 

When you rinse and lightly scrub your clams under running cold water, toss any clams that are open or have a broken shell. After cooking the clams, toss any that are not open or have a broken shell. 

 

Linguine With Clams

Start bringing the pasta water to a boil. When you add salt, use a little less than usual. The liquid from the clams will add some more salt that will elevate the brininess of the dish. While following the steps below, cook 8 oz pasta slightly less than al dente, as it will finish cooking in the sauce.

 

In a saucepan large enough to fit the clams in no more than about two “layers,” heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil, add the clams, and cover with a lid. It should be hot enough that it starts to sizzle when the clams release their juices. Shake and stir occasionally. It will take about 8-10 minutes (depending on the heat) until the clams open up. Once a couple of clams start opening up, the others will follow within a minute or so.

Linguine with Clams (Photo by Viana Boenzli)
(Photo by Viana Boenzli)

Essential next step: When the clams have all opened up, put a strainer in a bowl to catch all the cooking liquids when draining the clams. This liquid is the soul of your clam sauce. 

 

Remember:

  • a clam that’s open before cooking: toss
  • a clam that’s closed after cooking: toss

 

Remove the meat from most of the cooked clams, but also leave some in the shell. The clams left in the shell make an excellent presentation when serving, and the clams removed from the shell will get the full pan sauce treatment on all sides — the perfect combination. 

 

Using the same saucepan you just cooked the clams in, heat 4 Tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil, and add 1 Tbsp (or 2) minced garlic and 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes. Be careful not to burn the garlic. The easiest way to avoid this is by adding the garlic (and red pepper flakes) and the oil in the pan together when the pan is still cold. Start the heat, and as soon as the garlic starts to cook, decrease the heat slightly. Let the garlic (and pepper flakes) soften for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Linguine with Clams (Photo by Viana Boenzli)
(Photo by Viana Boenzli)

Put the clams (including the ones you left in the shell) back into the pan and give it a good stir. Crank up the heat and add 1 c of dry white wine (Sauvignon Blanc works great) and let the wine reduce (steam) for about 5 minutes. Reduce heat.  

 

Add 1/2 c pasta water and the cooked and drained pasta, and give it another good stir. Drizzle with another 2 Tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil and 1/4 c finely chopped Italian parsley. Use tongs to serve. 

Linguine with Clams (Photo by Viana Boenzli)
(Photo by Viana Boenzli)

Note: Adding starchy pasta water will thicken the sauce and coat the linguine entirely. You’ll end up with a mouthwatering, silky, briny, fresh seafood dish that will transport you to a little fishing village along the southern Italian Mediterranean coast somewhere. No, really, it does. 

 

You’ve probably figured it out and yes, you’re correct. You can substitute clams with shrimp, mussels, scallops, or octopus. Enjoy!

Linguine with Clams (Photo by Viana Boenzli)
(Photo by Viana Boenzli)

 

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Linguine with Clams (Photo by Viana Boenzli)

Linguine with Clams - Linguine alle Vongole

Linguine with clams - "Linguine alle vongole." You can even say it with your hands: "Linguine alle Vongole, capeesh?" A classic Italian dish that I’ve been making for many years.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 45 mins
Servings 2

Ingredients
  

  • 4-5 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 50 little neck clams (2 lbs)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (1-2 Tbsp)
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 c dry white wine (eg Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 8 oz linguine
  • 1/2 c reserved pasta water
  • 1/4 c fresh Italian flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt to taste

Instructions
 

  • Start bringing the pasta water to a boil. When you add salt, use a little less than usual. 
  • While following the steps below, cook 8 oz pasta slightly less than al dente, as it will finish cooking in the sauce.
  • In a saucepan large enough to fit the clams in no more than about two “layers,” heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil, add the clams, and cover with a lid. Shake and stir occasionally. It will take about 8-10 minutes (depending on the heat) until the clams open up.
  • When the clams have all opened up, put a strainer in a bowl to catch all the cooking liquids when draining the clams. 
  • Remove the meat from most of the cooked clams, but also leave some in the shell. The clams left in the shell make an excellent presentation when serving, and the clams removed from the shell will get the full pan sauce treatment on all sides.
  • Using the same saucepan you just cooked the clams in, heat 4 Tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil, and add 1 Tbsp (or 2) minced garlic and 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes. Let the garlic (and pepper flakes) soften for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
  • Put the clams (including the ones you left in the shell) back into the pan and give it a good stir. 
  • Crank up the heat and add 1 c of dry white wine (Sauvignon Blanc works great) and let the wine reduce (steam) for about 5 minutes. Reduce heat.  
  • Add 1/2 c pasta water and the cooked and drained pasta, and give it another good stir. Taste and add salt as needed.
  • Drizzle with another 2 Tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil and 1/4 c finely chopped Italian parsley. Use tongs to serve. Enjoy!

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4 Comments
  • Francy
    January 15, 2021

    5 stars
    I love Spaghetti with clams. Good work they looks good! you explained very well how to make.

  • Arica
    January 15, 2021

    5 stars
    I can honestly say I’ve never had clams, but this looks so delicious!