Quick Linguine And Clams Recipe

Linguine alle vongole, or linguine with clams, is a popular dish throughout Italy, particularly in Campania. This recipe sees al dente linguine pasta tossed with fresh littleneck clams in their shells. A simple sauce of garlic- and shallot-infused olive oil with a generous glug of white wine is the perfect way to highlight the subtle, briny flavors of the clams. Topped with a generous garnish of chopped parsley, it's showstopping enough for a dinner party yet quick and easy enough for a weeknight supper, taking just 30 minutes to prepare from start to finish.

Working with fresh shellfish might seem daunting at first, but trust Maren Epstein, a certified chef, nutritionist, and blogger at Eating Works, to guide you each step of the way. She offers tips for ensuring that any subpar clams are discarded before cooking, so that the final dish is a true feast for the eyes, the senses, and the palate. Once you've given it a try, you'll wonder why it took you this long!

Gather the ingredients

This pasta goes quick once you start cooking, so you'll want to make sure you have all of your mise en place ready before the kitchen heats up! Chop the shallots and parsley and mince the garlic, so when it comes time to add them to the fragrant sauce, you won't have to step away from it and risk burning these delicate ingredients.

When it comes to choosing a wine for this linguine with clams, a drier white is best. Epstein likes the bright acidity of sauvignon blanc, which pairs wonderfully with seafood. And as always when cooking with wine, pick a bottle that's good enough to drink.

Don't be afraid of breaking out your favorite extra-virgin olive oil for the sauce. "To me, top-quality olive oil will never get lost," says Epstein. "Use the best you have." Of course, you don't have to go out and buy an expensive oil if you don't already have one. "If you don't have fancy oil on hand, just use what you have and it will still taste great," she says, noting that if you'd like an extra bit of richness, "you can always cheat and add a tablespoon of unsalted butter to the sauce."

You'll also need a lemon, some red pepper flakes, salt, and, of course, the linguine and the little neck clams!

Soak the clams

Next, it's time to prep the clams. As with other shellfish, clams are sold — and should be cooked — alive. Yeah, maybe it seems a bit morbid, but this is the best way to ensure they won't make you sick when you eat them. Be sure to buy them as close to when you plan to cook them as possible — preferably on the same day.

Fresh clams will always have a bit of sand and grit in them, and you definitely don't want this in your pasta! To remove it, simply soak the clams in salt water — about as much salt as you need to make the water taste of the sea. This, explains Epstein, "will cause the clam to open and spit out the sand." Soak them in three changes of fresh water, rinsing them carefully each time, to make sure they're clean and ready to cook.

Once you've rinsed the clams, keep an eye out for any shells that remain open; an open clam is probably a dead clam, and it could make you sick. If you find one, knock it against the countertop. If it doesn't close on its own, discard it.

Make the sauce for the linguine with clams

Next, it's time to get to work on the simple, flavorful sauce. First, sauté the shallot in a generous amount of olive oil until tender. Add the garlic and red chili flakes, and cook until just fragrant — barely a minute or two — before adding the lemon juice and white wine. Once the liquid is added, you can relax: the garlic is safe from burning, which would add an unpleasant bitterness to the dish. 

If you take the garlic too far, it's best to wipe out the pan and start again: the burnt flavor will linger, ruining the expensive shellfish and wine.

Cook the linguine and the clams

At this point in the recipe, it's just a question of timing. Get the linguine into boiling water, give it a stir, and then add the clams to the sauce. In the time it takes for the linguine to reach a perfect al dente, the clams should be open, and unlike when they were raw, that's a good thing! Any that remain closed after cooking should be discarded: it means they were dead when you started.

Unlike with some other pasta recipes, you'll want to fully drain the pasta cooking water for this dish, notes Epstein. While she says that adding cooking water is common to help bind pasta sauces with the lingering starch, "I find it dilutes the flavor. Since you will be adding a whole cup of wine there will be plenty of sauce to go around."

With the pasta and clams cooked, it's just a question of marrying the two. Toss the pasta with the clams in the pan to combine and cook until the starch from the pasta thickens the sauce, about 4 minutes.

A parsley garnish is the perfect finishing touch, but if you can't imagine pasta without cheese, Epstein says you should go for it! (Despite what pasta purists might say about pairing cheese and shellfish.) "If adding some Parmesan to the top of this dish makes you happy, I don't see why you shouldn't do it."

Quick Linguine And Clams Recipe
5 from 26 ratings
Daunted by cooking with shellfish? This recipe is super easy — we'll walk you through exactly what you need to do to enjoy your linguine and clams!
Prep Time
Cook Time
linguine and clams
Total time: 30 minutes
  • 2 pounds little neck clams
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 shallots (½ cup chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper chili flakes
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ⅓ cup lemon juice, plus more to taste
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 pound linguine
  • salt to taste
  • ½ cup parsley, chopped
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, soak the clams in water seasoned with enough salt to make it taste of the sea, agitating them for 3 minutes. Rinse and repeat this process 3 more times.
  2. Search for any open clams, and tap open ones on the counter. If they don't close, discard them.
  3. In a large skillet, heat the oil and sauté the shallots until they soften. Add the chili flakes, and stir to combine. Add the garlic, and reduce the heat. Cook until just fragrant, stirring often to ensure the garlic doesn't burn. Add the lemon juice and white wine, and stir to combine.
  4. Add the pasta to the boiling water, and cook according to package directions. Meanwhile, add the clams to the white wine sauce, stir to combine, and cover. Cook 7 minutes, or until the clams open.
  5. Drain the pasta and add to pan to sauté with the clams. Season with lemon and salt to taste, and add the chopped parsley. Once the sauce thickens slightly (after about 4 minutes) remove from the heat and garnish with more parsley before serving.
Calories per Serving 443
Total Fat 12.2 g
Saturated Fat 1.8 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 34.0 mg
Total Carbohydrates 52.3 g
Dietary Fiber 2.7 g
Total Sugars 3.9 g
Sodium 691.7 mg
Protein 24.9 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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