Spaghetti with clams

I love clams. Like mussels, clams are little stock making machines – the juice they produce is at least half the point. But if I had to choose, my desert island bivalve would be clams. Spaghetti with clams is a classic Italian dish. Like linguini with crab, in restaurants it’s easy to be shortchanged on the star of the plate, either by distracting padding (tomatoes, onions), or distracting pasta. The point of most pasta dishes is the pasta, not the sauce, but I think spaghetti all vongole should rather be thought of as zuppa vongole alla spaghetti – a large portion of clams sitting in bowl half full of liquid, with a reasonable but not excessive helping of spaghetti.  Here’s a recipe to try. They key points compared to other recipes out there are the quantity of the clams, the use of butter, and finishing off the pasta in the sauce


Quantities per person

Half a kilo of clams

2 cloves garlic

large clump of parsley

Half a lemon (juice + zest)

1 tablespoon each of olive oil + butter (ie enough for frying garlic and chilli, then coating pasta)

1 serving spaghetti

1 large glass white wine


1. Remove grit from clams

The internet is full of advice. What works for me is to scrub if needed, then soak in salt water for 20 minutes, then rinse several times until the water is clear.

A kilo of clams

A kilo of clams


2. The rest

Cook the pasta until a minute before al dente.  Meanwhile, fry garlic in oil and butter for one minute, then add chilli and lemon zest and cook another 30 seconds, add wine and boil for 2 minutes, then add clams, stir once, then cover, checking every now and again. Discard any that remain stubbornly closed. Add the just-off-al-dente pasta, parsley, and lemon juice, turn off all heat and allow to sit uncovered for 2 minutes. Serve with fork and spoon.


Spaghetti with clams

Spaghetti with clams


I suggest avoiding almost all fripperies – onion, tomatoes, peppers…cream – however, a modest dose of parmesan would not be out of a place: clams take well to cheese, and parmesan is dairy’s answer to MSG.


Soupy goodness

Soupy goodness


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