Linguine Vongole (Linguine with Clam Sauce)

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.

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overhead shot of a bowl of pasta with clams

This recipe for Linguine alle Vongole, aka pasta with clam sauce, uses mostly pantry ingredients and only takes 30 minutes to make. It’s been a staple in my cooking repertoire for as long as I can remember, since my dad was a commercial clammer and clams were always around in our house.

I’m going to show you the exact steps you need to follow to make the best clam pasta of your life. This is an old family recipe that I’ve tweaked and improved over the years thanks to the skills I learned as a professional chef.

What makes this recipe especially great is you have the option to make it without any fresh clams if they’re not readily available where you live. You can make a silky, garlicky, buttery white clam sauce using canned clams and bottled clam juice that tastes just as good as the real thing.

Keep reading to learn all my best tips and tricks for making an incredible bowl linguine alla vongole, with both fresh or canned clams.

For more delicious clam recipes, try my Cioppino Seafood Stew or my creamy 5 star New England Clam Chowder Recipe!

What is Linguine alle Vongole?

Linguine alle Vongole is a traditional Italian pasta dish featuring long, thin, flat noodles cooked in a clam sauce. It’s a simple dish that be prepared with fresh clams or canned clams and is popular both in Italy and Italian American communities, especially on the coast.

What is Vongole?

Vongole is the Italian word for clams and is pronounced “von-go-lay”

Why You'll Love this Linguine Vongole Recipe

  • 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.
All the ingredients needed for linguine alle vongole, or pasta with clam sauce.
Ingredient Notes

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.

*Find the full ingredient list in the recipe card below!

How to Buy Fresh Clams

Always buy clams and other seafood from a reputable fish monger or seafood store. Fresh clams should look clean and moist and feel heavy for their size with the shells tightly closed. If the shells are partially open, give them a quick tap to determine whether or not they are alive. If they are, they will quickly snap shut, and if they are not, they will remain open. Avoid purchasing or cooking dead clams and don’t be afraid to ask your fishmonger questions like where the clams were sourced and when they were caught.

How many Clams per person?

The beauty of this recipe is that it can use as many or as few clams as you prefer or have a budget for. A good rule of thumb is about 8-10 littleneck clams per person, or for each bowl of pasta.

close up of pasta and clams

How to make Linguine with Clams

  1. Bring a large pot of water up to a boil and season with a generous pinch of salt. 
  2. In a medium saucepan, sauté the garlic and red pepper flakes in olive oil over medium heat for about 2 minutes. 
  3. Add the wine, then the whole clams, cover and cook until they just start to open, about 5 minutes. 
  4. Use a slotted spoon or tongs to remove the clams to a bowl, then cover and set aside somewhere to keep warm.
  5. 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. 
  6. 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. 
  7. 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. 
  8. 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.
  9. Drain the noodles and add them to the pot, then toss around for a few minutes to allow it to absorb all the flavors. 
  10. 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.
bowl of pasta with clam sauce

Faq about Lingine alle Vongole

How to avoid tough, rubbery clams?

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.

How to store fresh clams?

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.

What is bronze die cut pasta and why is it better?

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.

Why is there no grated cheese in the recipe?

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.

Should you drain canned clams?

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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overhead shot of a bowl of pasta with clam sauce
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Vongole Pasta (Linguine with Clams)

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.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 2 servings
Calories: 879kcal

Ingredients

  • salt for seasoning the pasta water and the sauce as needed
  • 5 cloves of garlic finely minced
  • pinch of red chili flakes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • 20 littleneck clams purged and scrubbed clean *see note to replace with canned clams
  • 6.5 ounce 1 can chopped clams
  • 1 cup bottled clam juice
  • ½ lb linguine bronze die cut if possible
  • 1 lemon juiced
  • 8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley divided

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of water up to a boil and season with a generous pinch of salt. 
  2. In a medium saucepan, sauté the garlic and chili flakes in olive oil for about 2 minutes. 
  3. Add the wine, then the clams, cover and cook until they just start to open, about 5 minutes. 
  4. Use a slotted spoon or tongs to remove the clams to a bowl, then cover and set aside somewhere to keep warm.
  5. Drain the liquid from the canned clams and add that to the pan along with the bottled clam juice. Simmer over medium high heat until the liquid is reduced by roughly two thirds, about 5 minutes. 
  6. While the sauce is reducing, drop the linguini into the boiling water, stir, and cook until al dente as per package directions, about 8-10 minutes. 
  7. 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. 
  8. Add the butter a few pieces at a time, while stirring, until fully incorporated. Taste for seasoning, and add more salt only if needed, then stir in half of the chopped parsley.
  9. Drain the pasta and add it to the pot, then toss around for a few minutes to allow it to absorb all the flavors. 
  10. Transfer to serving bowls and arrange the reserved clams around the outside. Sprinkle with the remaining chopped parsley and serve immediately.

Notes

  • *If fresh clams are not available to you, simply replace them with an additional can of clams and proceed with the recipe, ignoring any prompts for the fresh clams. 
  • 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 but avoid adding too much or it can result in an overly salty dish because clams tend to be very salty. A few big pinches will do. 
  • All brands of pasta cook up a little differently, so always reference the package directions before cooking.
  • It's important to use cold, unsalted butter to avoid the sauce separating or becoming overly salty. 

Nutrition

Calories: 879kcal | Carbohydrates: 155g | Protein: 28g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 11g | Trans Fat: 0.01g | Cholesterol: 10mg | Sodium: 782mg | Potassium: 857mg | Fiber: 17g | Sugar: 20g | Vitamin A: 2404IU | Vitamin C: 47mg | Calcium: 114mg | Iron: 20mg

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15 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Oh wonderful Vongole...I did add mussels with the clams this time ...this recipe takes me back to New England...fine eating.

  2. 5 stars
    My family loved it. I did not have the canned clams— just the clam juice and whole clams- but it still tasted delicious. Will be making again.