This recipe for Linguine alle Vongole, aka pasta with clam sauce, is an easy and delicious classic Italian seafood dinner that uses mostly pantry ingredients and only takes 30 minutes to make.
Linguine alle Vongole has been a staple in my cooking repertoire for as long as I can remember. It combines two of my favorite foods: pasta and clams. It has a silky, garlicky, buttery white clam sauce and perfectly cooked, al dente linguini. It's simple Italian comfort food at its best.
Why this recipe works
- Easy, beginner friendly Italian seafood recipe that takes only 30 minutes.
- Conveniently made with mostly pantry ingredients.
- Can be made with fresh and/or canned clams depending on what's available to you.
- The sauce is extra flavorful thanks to a reduction of bottled clam juice, plenty of garlic and butter.
- Herbs and lemon juice add brightness and freshness to balance the rich, salty sauce.
- Whole Clams - Called Vongole Italian. If you have access to a good seafood market and can get fresh clams, by all means use them. Little necks, Manilla or cockles are best.
- Canned Clams - I actually like the flavor and texture of canned clams, so I combine them with fresh clams in my recipe. If you don't have any fresh clams, using all canned clams will still work great. My Sicilian grandfather was a commercial fisherman with unlimited access to fresh clams and he often made this recipe with canned clams.
- Bottled Clam Juice - This is the liquid that gets reduced and concentrated to create a super flavorful clam sauce. Look for bottled clam juice in the tinned fish or seafood section of the grocery store. You can substitute fish stock if necessary, but the juice really gives the dish that salty, clammy flavor that makes it taste so delicious.
- Butter - it's very important to use unsalted butter here. Clams and clam juice can be very salty and adding salted butter might make the dish taste overly salty.
- Dry White Wine - any variety of a light, dry white wine will work, just avoid anything sweet or off-dry, such as a Riesling. Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, an un-oaked Chardonnay or even a light, dry Rosé will be great. Of course, using a wine from Italy is even better.
- Pasta - Linguine or spaghetti is classic in this recipe, but you can use any long pasta that you prefer. For best results, look for a bronze die cut pasta, which is a higher quality and allows the sauce to more easily cling to each noodle.
Step by step instruction
- Bring a large pot of water up to a boil and season with a generous pinch of salt.
- In a medium saucepan, sauté the garlic and red pepper flakes in olive oil over medium heat for about 2 minutes.
- Add the wine, then the whole clams, cover and cook until they just start to open, about 5 minutes.
- Use a slotted spoon or tongs to remove the clams to a bowl, then cover and set aside somewhere to keep warm.
- Drain the liquid from the can and add that to the pan along with the bottled juice. Simmer over medium high heat until the liquid is reduced by roughly two thirds, about 5 minutes.
- While the sauce is reducing, drop the linguini into the boiling salted water, stir, and cook until al dente as per package directions, about 8-10 minutes.
- When the pasta is 2-3 minutes away from being done, reduce the heat of the pan to low, then add the canned clams and lemon juice.
- Add the butter a few pieces at a time, while stirring, until fully incorporated. Season with black pepper, then taste and add more salt only if needed, then stir in half of the chopped parsley.
- Drain the noodles and add them to the pot, then toss around for a few minutes to allow it to absorb all the flavors.
- Transfer to serving bowls and arrange the reserved clams around the outside. Sprinkle with the remaining chopped parsley and serve immediately.
Tips for success
- Use more or less garlic to taste - I love to use a lot, but adjust it to your liking.
- It's important to salt the pasta water so that it can season the pasta from the inside out as it cooks. Avoid adding too much salt or it can result in an overly salty dish because the shellfish are very salty. A few big pinches will do.
- Set a timer for your pasta 1 minute before the package directions say it will be done to avoid the noodles overcooking. When the timer goes off, test a noodle and drain as soon as it reaches the perfect al dente texture.
- Use cold butter and make sure the burner is on low heat when you add it to the pan so the sauce emulsifies rather than separates.
Faq about Lingine alle Vongole
They become rubbery and tough when they are over cooked. The key to tender, perfectly cooked clams is to remove them from the pan as soon as they open, then add them back to the dish right before serving. For the canned variety, since they are already cooked, simply add them right at the end of cooking to avoid them getting tough.
They can keep in the refrigerator for several days (sometimes up to a week) if you store them properly. Store them in a colander or perforated bowl set over top of another bowl in the refrigerator with ice over top. Do not cover. Drain the water out of the bowl and replace the ice every day for optimal results. If any are open, give them a firm tap - if they close, they are still alive, but if not, it means they are dead. Discard any dead ones before cooking.
Bronze die or bronze cut pasta refers to pasta that has been extruded through a bronze die, as opposed to a teflon coated die that is typically used for mass produced pastas. It's the more traditional way to make pasta in Italy, but the teflon coated dies are now more commonly used because they are less expensive. Bronze die cut pasta is considered better because it has a slightly rougher, more porous texture that sauces can more easily cling to.
Italians have a general rule about not combining cheese with seafood because it masks the delicate flavors of the sea. For linguini alle vongole, the salty shellfish and butter give plenty of flavor so cheese really isn't necessary. That said, I don't believe in following strict food rules - if you want to add a little parmesan on top, be my guest.
No! The juice in the can is exactly the same as bottled juice. Add it to the simmering liquid along with the juice for best results.
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