Linguine alle vongole (linguine with white clam sauce) is always a hit! This dish is great for the spring and summer months or really anytime you’re in the mood for a light and fresh Italian pasta recipe. The briny clams, white wine, hot pepper flakes, and fresh parsley are the perfect flavor match for the pasta.
This recipe is cooked in bianco. I like white clam sauce for pasta. 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 is anchovies. They add a ton of seafood flavor and are a great addition.
If you'd like an easier pantry-style white clam sauce recipe, try this linguine with canned clams.
- 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.
- ½ 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.
- ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes - A good starting point. Use more according to taste.
- 10 cloves garlic
- ¼ cup chopped parsley - Definitely try to use fresh parsley.
- ¼ cup olive oil - for sauteing the garlic.
- ¼ 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.
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!
Linguine With White Clam Sauce Instructions
- The 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 ¼ 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 ½ 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, ¼ 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.
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.
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 it 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.
What To Serve With Linguine Alle Vongole
More Pasta You'll Love
- Tuna Pasta With YellowFin Tuna
- Pasta With Cherry Tomatoes and Basil
- Shrimp Fra Diavolo
- Rigatoni Alla Vodka
If you’ve enjoyed this Linguine alle Vongole recipe or any recipe on this site please let us know in the comments. We would love to hear how you did and it’s nice to show others as well. Thanks!
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The full Youtube video for this recipe is directly below in the recipe card.
- 1 pound linguine
- 3 dozen little neck clams
- 10 ounce can baby clams
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 4 small anchovies
- ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 10 cloves garlic
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ 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 ¼ cup of olive oil. Cook until the garlic is golden and the anchovies are slightly dissolved.
- To the same pan add the clams and the ½ 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, ¼ cup of pasta water and the ½ 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 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.
Beautiful dish. I don't have much experience cooking with clams, though love cooking with mussels. 🙂 Good to know canned can be okay too. My boys (13 & 15) have loved clams when they've had them (in paella, I believe). I might have to give this a go -- I think they'd love it!
Thanks Valentina! Canned clams are definitely a great option when the fresh ones are hard to find. Mussels are amazing and I often make this dish the same way just with them.
Delish. Made tonight with fresh baguette on warm bowls!! So good!!
Hi Iris. I'm very happy you enjoyed it. The fresh baguette sounds perfect to mop the extra sauce!
I made this many times, but tonight I used your recipe, I was delicious, I would say it's the best I ever made. Thank you and love your recipes which you video they are very informative and you are a pleasure to watch and learn from.
Hi Miriam. I'm glad you enjoyed it. Most people seem to find me through my YouTube/Facebook videos, but there are many recipes on this site that are not in video form too that you might enjoy. Thanks!
wait 10 cloves? it looked like u used 5 in the video, im a garlic lover but also super strict about following recipes the first time i make them
Hi Greg, if I used 5 in the video it may have been because the garlic cloves I had at that time were on the larger side. If you have very large garlic cloves use 5, if they're on the smaller side, use 10. Garlic clove sizes vary all the time and the good thing about garlic is you don't need to be super strict with it in a recipe. If you enjoy a lot of garlic, use more and if you don't like a lot, use less.
Thanks, im making this recipe for my son who is home from the Airforce. Great tip with rhe pasta water!
Thank you to you, and your son, Joe! I'm so happy you liked this one!
I am wondering: is 10 oz. of clam meat equal to a pound of little neck clams? I tried to google this question, but couldn’t figure it out. TIA!
Hi there, I think there would be less than 10 oz of clam meat in a pound of little neck clams considering the shells weigh so much but I don't have an exact answer for you.
Hi Jim…I make this dish often! I love fresh clams… The last time I made it I didn’t have wine on hand so I had made sure I bought a bottle of clam juice and it was delicious I do enjoy it with the wine additionally and that’s the way I usually make it but this dish is so fresh and satisfying And I loved watching the video… I was pleased to see that I was doing it basically the same way as you just followed my Italian Instincts.
Hi Barbara, I'm happy you enjoyed the video and appreciate the comment!
So simple and sooo delicious 😋 thanks Jim. Merry Christmas to you and your beautiful family.
Hi Denise, thanks so much and happy you liked the recipe! Merry Christmas to you as well!
Got the clams at Cosco…👍 Made this tonight for dinner. It was delicious. My husband loved it and so did I. Made it exactly as the recipe stated but as you said, you can add some fresh lemon juice and some butter, which I did. Excellent! Love that you have a video along with the recipe. Loved loved loved it!!!👍🤗
Hi Cindy, I'm so happy you enjoyed this and really appreciate the comment!
I made this for my husband tonight for dinner. I have never made it before! It was easy and turned out fabulous! He said he felt like he was in Italy.
Hi Joni, I'm so happy you and your husband enjoyed this one and really appreciate the comment!