Updated: Jun 23
Spaghetti alle vongole (Spaghetti in clam and white wine sauce) is a summer classic and is best enjoyed with your toes in the sand and a view onto the crystalline Mediterranean Sea.
Summer in Italy is synonymous with the sea, which means fish and crustaceans are in high supply along the entirety of the country’s jagged coastline. For this recipe, clams are sautéed with garlic, oil and a touch of chili and served – with their shells – with spaghetti and a healthy dash of fresh parsley. Complement it with a glass of chilled white wine and you’ll feel immersed in a summer reverie no matter where you find yourself eating this dish.
Serves 4 - Preparation time 2 hours - Cooking time 10 min
1kg fresh clams
350g spaghetti or linguine
Extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, crushed
½ red chilli, deseeded and finely diced
One onion, diced
A knob of butter
A handful of parsley, chopped
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Freshly grated Parmesan, optional
A handful of toasted bread crumbs, optional
1. CLEANING THE CLAMS
Leave clams to soak in salted water (about ½ teaspoon for a very large bowl) for at least 2 hours. The clams will naturally filter out any grit and sand. If they are particularly sandy, repeat the process with a fresh batch of salted water. Discard any clams that come to the surface, or have broken shells as they are likely already dead and are not safe to eat.
2. MAKING THE SAUCE
Heat a large frying pan, add one clove garlic, a few parsley sprigs, and as many clams as will fit in a single layer.
Pour in enough wine to cover the bottom of the pan. Turn up the heat and cover with a lid. The clams should open after two or three minutes. Take the pan off the heat and discard any clams which haven’t opened, and any empty shells. Put them aside in a bowl. Cook the rest of the clam in this way.
When you have cooked all the clams, strain the liquid through a fine-mesh strainer or a clean tea towel; this clam-cooking liquid is priceless.
When clams are cool enough to handle, pluck half of them, from their shells and return them to the clam-cooking liquid.
In the meantime start cooking the spaghetti, in salted boiling water.
Rinse out the frying pan, set it over medium heat and add enough oil to coat the pan. When the oil shimmers add the diced onion and a pinch of salt. Cook the onion until it is tender, stirring from time to time. Then add two cloves of garlic and the fresh red chilli; allow it to sizzle gently without taking on any colour.
Return the clams and their liquid into the pan, cook for about one minute, taste and adjust with more white wine or a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
3. COOKING SPAGHETTI
When the pasta is not yet al dente – that means three minutes before the recommended cooking instructions- drain it, reserving a cup of the pasta water.
4. ASSEMBLING THE DISH
Toss the spaghetti through the white wine and clam sauce until well-coated, swirl the pan until the noodles are cooked al dente. This way, the pasta will absorb all the briny flavour of the clam liquid as it finishes cooking. If the noodles seem dry, add some of the reserved pasta water.
Toss in a knob of butter, stir through the fresh chopped parsley, season with black pepper and some freshly grated Parmesan, if you wish.
I know that adding cheese to a seafood pasta, might seem quite wrong, especially if you are Italian, but I had to surrender and admit that this recipe tastes better with Parmesan.
For a final touch of crunch, sprinkle the dish with toasted bread crumbs. They will mingle with the pasta, and absorb the clam juice.
Enjoy with a cold glass of white wine.
Pasta in clam and white wine sauce is a great foundational recipe that can be substituted with any number of different seafoods. Not into clams? Substitute them for mussels or add shrimp to make a pasta with seafood double whammy.
Hope you enjoy this recipe! If you make it, please let me know your thoughts and tag me on my Fb page Pasta Journey or my Instagram a_pasta_journey . I would love to hear from you! Marina Totta