Spaghetti with clams is an Italian classic filled with the flavors of summer. Briny clams, buttery spaghetti, bright lemon and fresh parsley blend together for an irresistible meal.
This spaghetti with clams is one of my favorite pasta dishes, and very near to my heart, mainly because it's my husband Brandon's specialty. He rarely cooks, but you can bet that if he's putting on an apron, it's either to make this pasta or to roll some sushi.
He's made this dish for me a handful of times over the years, and even though it's so simple, it always screams "special occasion" to me.
We like to use spaghetti or linguine, whichever is on hand, and the freshest clams possible. Usually, littlenecks are the best option by us. The briny water inside of the clam shell is what makes the magic happen, especially when combined with loads of garlic, lemon and parsley!
You can't have clams without a healthy dose of garlic, trust me. I use an entire small head of garlic! Bye bye vampires...
Anywho...grab the white wine, put it in the fridge so it gets icy cold, and let's get cooking.
SPAGHETTI WITH CLAMS INGREDIENTS
To make this recipe, you will need the following ingredients:
- Spaghetti: My favorite brand of pasta is Rusticella D'Abruzzo. It's a splurge, but absolutely worth it IMHO. Any spaghetti you have on hand will do though! Make sure for this recipe that you use a long noodle.
- Clams: For this recipe, it's best to use ~24-36 small clams. The 3 varieties to choose from (depending on what's best locally by you) are cockles, manila, or littleneck clams. I almost always use littlenecks because they are readily available.
- Garlic: A must! I use an entire small head of garlic. Don't worry, it's not too much. Make sure to chop your garlic fresh- the pre-chopped stuff in a jar won't do for this recipe.
- Lemon Juice: Only fresh lemon juice, none of the bottled concentrate. You'll need ~2 large lemons (1/4 cup of juice) for this recipe, and I usually like to serve alongside a few more wedges for squeezing over the spaghetti just before meal time!
- Olive Oil: Use very high quality olive oil for this recipe (it should be a deep, rich color) because it adds loads of flavor to the sauce.
- Pasta Water: Not exactly an ingredient, but it's the secret to any successful pasta operation.
HOW TO MAKE SPAGHETTI WITH CLAMS
Here is a glance into how I make this vibrant and flavorful summer favorite. More details can be found in the recipe card below!
- Prepare water: You'll need a really big pot with loads of water, seasoned heavily with salt. You want your pasta water to taste like the sea. Here is a helpful guide on cooking pasta.
- Clean the clams: While the pasta water comes to a boil, place clams in a bowl filled with cold water and allow them to sit for 10-15 minutes completely submerged. This will help remove any sand from inside the clams. Once they are clean, rinse them off. Scrub any dirt from the outside shells if necessary. Rinse again and set aside.
- Prep all of your sauce ingredients: In order to ensure a smooth cooking process, chop your garlic and parsley before you begin boiling the pasta. Squeeze your lemons for juice. Set each aside in a small bowl. I use these glass nesting bowls everyday when cooking and they make prepping easy and cooking organized!
- Boil pasta: Whenever you are boiling pasta, and then finishing it in a pan sauce (like this clam sauce) you want to remove it from the water 2 minutes before it's al dente. This means you may think it's still a little raw. That's ok, it's going to finish cooking in the sauce, and then cook for another minute or two because of the heat left in the pan. Trust!!!
- Make the sauce: While the pasta boils, heat up olive oil in a pan. Once it's hot, add garlic, then clams. Cook for 5 minutes before adding in the spaghetti.
- Tie it all together: Right before you drain the pasta, take a 1/2 cup of salty, starchy pasta water out and pour it into the clam pan. Drain pasta and add it to the sauce. Add the remaining ingredients. Cover and cook for a few more minutes or until the clams have opened.
- Serve quickly: You don't want to let this one sit for too long as the pasta will absorb any sauce. Trust me, there won't be leftovers.
RECIPE SWAPS & VARIATIONS
- Add some heat: Feel free to add some dried red chili flakes for a little extra heat!
- Change up the pasta: But stick with a long, slim shape. Other options I like: linguine, fettucine or bucatini.
- If you're gluten-free: Use gluten-free pasta. (And as always, double-check that all other ingredients are certified gluten-free too.)
- Add meat: Pork and clams are another match made in heaven. If you want to add some bacon: cook 3 slices bacon until crisp, then crumble and set aside. Just before serving, mix in bacon. You could also use 1/2 cup of cubed pancetta or classic Italian sausage. Follow the same instructions: cook, remove, then add back to the pan at the last minute.
- Add summer produce: Two untraditional options that go well really in this recipe are corn and/or cherry tomatoes. If using either, add 1/2 cup to the pan with the garlic.
- Use canned clams: While I strongly recommend using fresh clams, high-quality canned clams will do in a pinch! I really like Bar Harbour chopped clams.
MORE ITALIAN RECIPES
If you're in the mood for more food of la dolce vita, check out these other Italian recipes:Print
Spaghetti with clams (alle vongole) is a simple Italian staple. Lemon, garlic and parsley douse the silky pasta and juicy clams!
1 lb. spaghetti
24 clams, preferably littleneck or manila variety*
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 bunch of fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup of fresh garlic, chopped (approximately 1 small head)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (approximately 2 large lemons)
fresh black pepper
- Before you start cooking, prepare all of your ingredients. Chop garlic, squeeze lemons for juice, chop parsley, etc. You want everything ready in advance because the cooking process goes very quickly.
- Place your clams in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Allow them to sit in the cold water for 10 minutes, then rinse and scrub away any remaining dirt.
- Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil.
- Season water very generously with salt and add spaghetti. Cook spaghetti until almost al dente. It should still have a toothsome bite in the middle but be flexible (approx 5-6 minutes). Don't worry, the pasta will finish cooking in the clam pan.
- While the spaghetti cooks, add olive oil to a large pan with deep sides. When the oil is hot, add garlic and cook for 1 minute, or until fragrant.
- Add clams and cover. Cook for 5 minutes.
- Uncover and using tongs, add spaghetti directly to the clam pan. Add lemon juice, parsley, 1 tsp of kosher salt and 1/2 cup of pasta water from the spaghetti pot.
- Vigorously toss, then turn the heat up to high and cover.
- Cook for another 3-4 minutes or until the pasta sauce has thickened up and the clams have opened.
- If any of your clams remain closed, discard them before serving.
- Serve immediately with extra fresh parsley and black pepper on top!
*small clams are preferable.
**When cooking clams, any that remained tightly sealed are dead and should be thrown out. If you have some that open just a little, you can still eat those!
- Category: Pasta, Seafood
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Italian
Keywords: clams, vongole, spaghetti, spaghetti with clams, italian pasta, seafood pasta, manila clams, littleneck clams