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Linguine with White Clam Sauce is simple, fresh and delicious – as well as budget-friendly! We’re sharing all of our tips and tricks so you can make this quick and easy Italian dish at home!
Restaurant-Quality Linguine with Clams
Linguine with White Clam Sauce is a quintessential Northern Italian dish. Your dinner guests will think that they are eating at a restaurant in Naples or Rome – but it will be our little secret that this classic recipe is super simple to make!
Fresh, flavorful ingredients play a starring role in the finished dish – so if at all possible, you’ll want to use fresh littleneck clams in this recipe. Littlenecks are smaller-sized clams, not very expensive, and often readily available at most supermarkets. Don’t worry, we give you options below if you can’t find fresh clams.
Why You’ll Love Linguine with Clam Sauce
- This dish comes together quickly and easily – in about as much time as it takes to cook the pasta.
- The flavors are AMAZING! Your dinner guests will feel like they are eating at a fine northern Italian restaurant.
“This is one of the best recipes for linguine with clams that I have ever made. My sister-in-law and I made this for one of our family beach vacation dinners and all 10 people raved! I used anchovies paste instead of the fillets and it was AMAZING! Thanks Martha & Jack for consistently presenting foolproof recipes. This is the only way I will make this dish from now on!
I love this site your recipes are foolproof!” – Al
Key Ingredients & Substitutions
- Linguine – While any strand-like pasta can be used, linguine is traditional for this dish. The sauce clings to the wide sturdy strands, and it makes for a filling dish even with the light but flavorful amount of seafood in each serving.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Fresh Garlic – Fresh garlic cloves are a must for this recipe. Don’t be tempted to use jarred minced garlic…the flavor won’t be the same.
- Red Pepper Flakes – Just a pinch is used and it adds a gentle, zesty heat (nothing overly spicy).
- Anchovy Fillets – Please don’t leave the anchovies out! They cook down in the sauce so you won’t even know they are there, and they add a fantastic salty flavor. Anchovy paste can also be swapped in (see FAQ’s below).
- Dry Oregano
- Littleneck Clams – You’ll need three pounds of fresh littleneck clams (2 1/2 dozen or so) for this recipe. Most supermarket fish departments sell them – but definitely check for freshness. If you can’t find littlenecks, fresh, frozen, or canned chopped clams are fine to use, along with an 8-ounce bottle of clam juice. (See the Notes section at the bottom of our recipe card for more details.)
- White Wine
- Fresh Italian Flat-Leaf Parsley
- Parmesan Cheese – Note that adding Parmesan cheese is NOT traditional, so feel free to leave it out. But we liked the additional flavor.
Never cooked with Littleneck Clams before?
Here’s a great online article from a fellow food blogger with lots of tips and tricks for selecting, buying, cleaning, and cooking with littlenecks.
Special Tools Needed
- Cutting Board and Sharp Knife
- Various Measuring Cups & Spoons
- Large Pot – To cook the pasta
- Large Skillet with Lid – 12 to 14-inches in size. This is used to cook the sauce and clams, as well as to assemble the dish.
- Wooden Spoon or Spatula
- Two Medium-sized Bowls
- Silicon Tipped Tongs – These are going to be used to remove the littlenecks from the skillet as they are done cooking, as well as to remove the pasta strands from the cooking water to transfer into the skillet with clam sauce. The silicone tips really help to grip both the shells and the pasta and make both tasks easier.
- Cheese Grater (optional – only if you plan to use fresh Parmesan cheese in your dish)
How do I make Linguine with White Clam Sauce?
- Follow these instructions to clean your clams.
- Cook the linguine in a large pot of water.
- Sauté garlic and red pepper flakes in extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet.
- Add anchovies and sauté until they disintegrate in the oil.
- Add oregano, white wine, and the fresh littleneck clams to the pan. Simmer until the shells start to open. Here’s a very important step: Some of the clam shells will cook and open sooner than others in the pan. Remove the opened clams to a bowl off the heat as they open, so they don’t overcook and become rubbery.
- By this point, your linguine should be just shy of the al dente stage – still a little chewy. Using tongs, transfer the linguine directly from the pot to the skillet with the white clam sauce to simmer for a few minutes until the pasta finishes cooking. Don’t worry about draining and rinsing the pasta – the starch from the cooked pasta helps thicken the white clam sauce as it simmers. (Feel free to add a little more of the pasta water if necessary to create a looser sauce.)
- Add half of the chopped parsley and cheese to the skillet and stir to mix into the sauce as the pasta finishes cooking.
- Pour in the bowl of clams (shell on or shell off – see serving suggestion below) and any juice that collected in the bowl.
- Stir one more time, then drizzle some olive oil over the top and sprinkle with the last of the cheese and chopped parsley.
- Serve immediately with some crusty garlic bread on the side.
You can add the clams – still in their shell – back to the pan with your Linguine with White Clam Sauce and serve as is, with a little bit of chopped fresh parsley sprinkled over the top. Or – you can do what we do – remove the clams from their shells before adding them back to the sauce. (We just find it much easier to eat if the clams have already been removed before serving.)
Cheese or No Cheese?
To be authentic, Linguine with White Clam Sauce is not typically served with Parmesan cheese added to this dish. As mentioned above, the fresh ingredients – and specifically the fresh clams – are the stars of this wonderful meal!
At the risk of offending the true traditionalists reading this recipe – we added Parmesan cheese to the cooked sauce, and as an extra sprinkle on top when served – just because we like it. The choice is yours.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Can I make Linguine with White Clam Sauce ahead of time? This is a dish that should be served freshly made so the clams are tender and their most flavorful.
- If I’m swapping in anchovy paste for the anchovy fillets, how much should I use? The general rule of thumb is 1 anchovy fillet = 1/2 teaspoon of anchovy paste. So – in this recipe – you’ll use 2 teaspoons of the paste in place of the 4 fillets.
- How do I store any leftovers? Store refrigerated in a container for up to two days. Note that the pasta will probably absorb much of the sauce as it sits.
- How do I reheat leftovers? Gently reheat in the microwave, being careful not to overcook the clams – they will get tough and rubbery if overcooked.
Our Linguine with White Clam recipe originally appeared on A Family Feast in October 2017. We’ve updated the post but the delicious 5-star recipe remains the same.
Click here for more delicious Seafood Recipes!
1 pound dry linguine pasta
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 large garlic cloves sliced thin
Pinch red pepper flakes
4 anchovy filets
1 teaspoon dry oregano
3 pounds cleaned shell-on littleneck clams (about 2 1/2 dozen) *see note below recipe about alternatives to fresh
3/4 cup white wine (we used chardonnay)
3 tablespoons fresh Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped fine and divided
4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided (Note: Adding Parmesan is not traditional, so feel free to leave it out.)
A little more extra virgin olive oil to drizzle over the finished dish
- Follow these instructions to clean your clams.
- Place a large pot of water on to boil and once boiling, lightly salt with kosher salt. Because salty anchovies are in this dish, try not to over salt the water. Once boiling add the linguine.
- While linguine is cooking, in a 12-14 inch skillet, heat the ¼ cup of olive oil over medium high heat and once hot, add the garlic and pepper flakes. Cook for 1-2 minutes or just before the garlic starts to brown.
- Add the anchovies and cook one minute. The anchovies will disintegrate into the oil.
- Add the oregano and the shell on little neck clams along with the white wine.
- Cover and cook over medium to medium high until the shells start to open, about five minutes. Try and control the heat so that the mixture bubbles but not at a full boil.
- Have two bowls standing by. Soon as you see one shell open, remove lid, lift it out with tongs and over one bowl, remove clam, again with tongs. Any liquid from the shell goes into this bowl as well. Place shell in second bowl. Repeat as each shell opens. At some point, several will open at once so remove cover and just remove as many as you can handle at once. Discard shells.
- Once pasta has reached a point where it is almost done but still a little chewy, using tongs, remove pasta from water and place in the pan that you cooked the clams in.
- Cook for a few minutes until the pasta is tender and has absorbed a little of the liquid. If you need a little more liquid, add a small amount of pasta water.
- As the pasta cooks, add half the chopped parsley and half the cheese. Finally finish by pouring in the bowl with the clams and juice. Give it one last stir and pour everything into a serving bowl.
- Drizzle some olive oil over the top and sprinkle with the remaining parsley and cheese.
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*Note: If fresh littleneck clams are not available in your area, you could use fresh, frozen or canned chopped clams along with bottled clam juice. Look for fresh or frozen clam containers that equal approximately 2 cups of chopped clams and purchase one bottle of clam juice. During Step 4 above (when you are adding the shell-on clams), add the juice and cook uncovered for two minutes along with the wine, garlic, etc. Just prior to adding the cooked linguini into the sauce, add the chopped fresh or frozen clams and cook for one minute. Using chopped clams this way will ensure they don’t get tough and rubbery which will happen if you cook them too long so adding just before the pasta will ensure that they stay tender. One last note…Canned chopped clams will most likely be precooked in which case you don’t want to cook them further. Just make sure they go into the pan after the cooked pasta.