Linguine alle vongole (linguine with clams) is such a great dish. It’s so fresh and vibrant from the delicious briny clams.
This linguine alle vongole is cooked in bianco. I like white clam sauce for pastas. Without pasta I prefer Clams In Red Sauce which is quite nice with just a loaf of crusty Italian bread.
Either way clams are great and it purely comes down to personal preference! When I was a boy my Grandmother made this dish for us quite frequently. Fresh clams were a rare treat so most of the time she made it with canned clams.
I want to say right from the outset you can get great results with good quality canned clams.
For this linguine alle vongole I use both fresh clams (little necks) and canned ones. I like the combo of both and it also adds a lot more clams to the dish which is a good thing! The other ingredient I always use for linguine with white clam sauce is anchovies. They add a ton of seafood flavor and are a great addition.
Linguine alle Vongole Ingredients:
- 1 pound linguine
- 3 dozen little neck clams – Other small bivalves such as manila clams or cockles work great.
- 10 ounce can baby clams – I used Cento brand. Use any good quality baby canned clams. Using the small baby clams distributes a lot more pieces of clam throughout the dish.
- 1/2 cup dry white wine – Pinot Grigio works nicely and is great to serve with the finished linguine and clam sauce.
- 4 anchovies – Canned anchovies come in small tins, also anchovy paste can be used.
- 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes – A good starting point. Use more according to taste.
- 10 cloves garlic
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley – Definitely try to use fresh parsley.
- 1/4 cup olive oil – for sauteing the garlic.
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil – For finishing the pasta. Extra virgin olive oil is nice to drizzle on top of pastas right before serving.
- Pasta water – Make sure to reserve 2 cups of pasta water for the sauce. You will not need it all but it’s always good to have extra insurance if the pasta dries out while waiting for guests to be seated.
Linguine With White Clam Sauce Instructions:
- First step is to cook pasta to “al dente” in (2 Tbsp kosher salt per gallon of water) a large pot of salted water. Also, chop the garlic. If you like it thin do it that way, if not chop it coarsely. It’s all personal preference!
- Finely chop the fresh parsley.
- Remove 4 Anchovies and chop them up. By chopping them they will evaporate in the olive oil more quickly.
- Drain the baby clams and reserve the clam juice as well.
- In a large sauce pan saute garlic and anchovies on medium low in a 1/4 cup of olive oil.
- Make sure to reserve some pasta water in a mug or leave the water in the pot if you have a pasta pot with strainer combination.
- Once the garlic is nice and golden and the anchovies are mostly dissolved, add the cleaned clams in the pan with the 1/2 cup of white wine to aid in the steaming. Turn the heat to medium-high.
- Close the lid and let the clams steam.
- Remove the clams as they begin to open with a slotted spoon and place in a separate bowl on the side. They will open at different rates (some take 2 minutes, others 5-7). If any clams are completely closed after about 7-10 minutes they are most likely dead and should be discarded. Keep the clams lightly covered with tented foil to keep warm.
- Add the parsley, reserved canned clam juice, 1/4 cup pasta water and the hot red pepper flakes to the pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the sauce is somewhat reduced and thickened.
- Turn heat down to medium and add the pasta to the pan. Cook for 1 minute tossing to thoroughly coat and allowing the sauce to absorb into the linguine.
- Add the canned baby clams to the pan and mix thoroughly again. Taste test and adjust salt and/or crushed red pepper levels. Finally add the whole clams to the pan and mix. Add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil on top and serve. If the linguine alle vongole gets at all dry before serving just add some extra reserved pasta water to loosen it back up.
So That’s How You Make Linguine With White Clam Sauce
The key to making this recipe work and avoiding frustration is to make sure to use nice fresh good quality clams. Just find the best seafood place and get the freshest ingredients!
I know Costco has great little neck clams. I love how they sell them in bags with the ship date and origin information. Rarely do I have a bad experience with clams from them, and occasionally get a perfect 100% open rate on the clams!
And remember if you can’t find fresh clams, feel free to make this recipe with only canned clams. If going that route, use two cans instead of one.
Do The Clams Need To Be Purged?
Purging removes sand from the clams. Clams tend to have a lot of sand because they live in it and are filter feeders. The sand needs to be removed before cooking them.
Most of the time commercial operations purge clams before selling them off to large stores like Costco, Whole foods, etc.
Ask if they are purged before purchasing and if you are unsure and want to do it correctly read this very comprehensive article from Hank Shaw on how to purge clams.
What I do before cooking with purged clams is rinse the clams and remove any loose sand. That’s it!
Substitutions And Additions:
- Capers – Capers can add an even brinier flavor to linguine alle vongole. Just be careful with them as they can definitely overpower the dish. The clams should be the predominant flavor. If choosing to use them, 1-2 Tbsp would be a good amount.
- White wine – Vermouth can be substituted for white wine. Alternatively alcohol can be omitted and the dish will still be great. If choosing to remove the wine, a little bit more pasta water will be needed. Not a problem, because extra pasta water has been reserved.
- Lemon juice – I love the addition of fresh lemon juice. Start with 1 lemon and work your way up. Linguine alle vongole is nice with some fresh lemon wedges served on the side at the dinner table. This gives your guests the ability to choose exactly the right amount of lemon flavor.
- Cream – I do not recommend as it will really blunt the briny seafood flavor in the dish.
- Cheese – Cheese is optional. I do not like it on linguine alle vongole but enjoy it on some seafood dishes. Cheese with seafood is frowned upon in Italy. I elaborate more on this in this Lemon Garlic Shrimp Pasta Recipe Of Ours.
On a scale of 1-5 with 1 being easy this linguine with white clam sauce is a 3. There’s only a couple of potential issues.
- Clams – Make sure to remove them from the pan as they open instead of waiting for every last one. Like stated in the instructions above, some clams will open real quick and others will take 5-7 minutes. Get them out of the pan as they open with a slotted spoon to avoid over cooking.
- Linguine – Like all of our pasta recipes say, make sure to cook the pasta quite al dente because it will be finished in the sauce for an extra 1-2 minutes of cooking. Finishing in the pan helps the sauce really stick and absorb into the pasta, instead of just sliding off. I realize sometimes it’s difficult to do this, especially if making more than a pound, but at a minimum really mix it well in the serving bowl.
What To Serve With Linguine Alle Vongole:
- Italian Vegetables With Lemon Caper Sauce – Delicious light roasted veggies that pairs perfectly.
- Italian Roasted Peppers – Oven roasted peppers sprinkled with seasoned breadcrumbs and parmigiano reggiano cheese.
- Green Beans Almondine – Super easy fresh green bean side with the addition of feta cheese.
Sip and Feast has many drink recipes, but for this dish nothing goes better than a nice glass of white wine. Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc are both excellent with white clam sauce.
Other Great Pastas:
- Spaghetti Carbonara
- Garlic Mushroom Pasta
- Shrimp Fra Diavolo
- Rigatoni Alla Vodka
- Pasta Al Forno
- Italian Sausage Pasta
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- 1 pound linguine
- 3 dozen little neck clams
- 10 ounce can baby clams
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 4 small anchovies
- 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 10 cloves garlic
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley
- 2 cups pasta water
- Cook pasta to "al dente" in a large pot of salted ( 2 Tbsp kosher salt per gallon) water. Chop or slice the garlic cloves. Finely chop the parsley. Chop 4 anchovies. Separate the canned baby clams from their juice, reserving both.
- In a large pan saute the garlic and anchovies on medium to medium-low heat in a 1/4 cup of olive oil. Cook until the garlic is golden and the anchovies are slightly dissolved (about 5-7 minutes).
- To the same pan add the clams and the 1/2 cup of white wine. Turn heat to medium-high and cover. Remove clams as they open and set aside in a bowl tented with foil to keep warm.
- After all the clams have opened (discard any that do not open after 7-10 minutes) add the parsley, reserved clam juice, 1/4 cup of pasta water and the 1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes. Let the sauce thicken slightly for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the al dente pasta to the sauce and turn heat to medium. Thoroughly coat the pasta with the sauce for 1 minute. Add the baby clams to the pasta to heat them through. Taste test and adjust salt and hot pepper levels if required.
- Finally add the whole clams to the pasta and mix once more. Turn the heat off and drizzle a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil on top. If more sauce is needed just add a few ounces of pasta water at a time to get the perfect consistency. Enjoy!
- The recipe makes 4 large or 6 moderate sized servings.
- No salt was added due to the inherent saltiness of the clams, anchovies and the pasta water. Adjust according to taste right before serving.
- Any clams unopened after about 7-10 minutes of steaming are most likely dead and should be discarded.
- The extra reserved pasta water can loosen up the sauce if it dries out while waiting for guests to be seated. Use a few ounces at a time.
- Linguine alle vongole does not store well and should be eaten right away.