If you’re a fan of light, ever-so-subtle seafood pasta, then this Linguine with Fresh Clams is right in your wheelhouse. With a lemon and garlic-forward sauce, hints of red pepper flake, and delicate shallots, this meal has quickly become one of our favorites. It’s also perfect for entertaining, which we love.
I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but I’m kind of obsessed with pasta. For more easy pasta recipes, be sure to check out this One Pot Short Rib Bolognese, the Best Spaghetti and Meatballs, and this Five Ingredient Cherry Tomato & Ricotta Linguini (perfect for spring and summer!).
Linguine with Fresh Clams
I’m not usually fan of seafood pastas. Actually, let me rephrase. I like seafood IN pasta, but I’m not a huge fan of seafood-based sauces. Does that make sense? So basically I adore say, fettuccine Alfredo with shrimp in it, or garlicky pasta noodles topped with perfectly cooked lobster, but if you give me a sauce packed with fish or seafood broth – not a fan.
I find the seafood-heavy flavor just a little bit too overwhelming…until today. Because while today’s recipe does indeed have some of that briny clam flavor laced throughout the sauce, it’s in the most subtle way possible.
Similar to a lot of other Linguine with Clams recipes, there’s actually only a minimal amount of ingredients here, making this relatively easy to throw together on the fly. My version also includes plenty of citrus in the form of lemon zest and lemon juice, and the delicate flavor of sweet shallots, because in my opinion, every pasta needs onion flavor in some way, shape, or form.
Here’s what’s happening:
- Littleneck clams cooked in garlic, white wine, and just a touch of water.
- A garlicky, lemon, and white wine sauce with just a hint of briny clam broth.
- Crushed red pepper flakes for a little bit of heat
- Lots of chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley for freshness
- Tender, chewy HOMEMADE linguini noodles (this is totally optional)
So I know the title of this post is EASY Linguine with Clams. And typically homemade pasta and EASY don’t really match up, but the homemade pasta, as aforementioned, is just an optional step. I happen to love the process of making a dough from scratch, and find it somewhat therapeutic, but that does not mean you need to break out Grandma’s (or Kitchen Aid’s) pasta maker. I do however, recommend using fresh pasta instead of dried, to stay in line with the way I developed this recipe.
If you’re interested, I’ve included the ingredients and instructions to make your own pasta, but if you’re going with store-bought, just skip it.
Also, just a side note, it’s a great afternoon activity for kiddos. Teddy was OBSESSED with helping, so much so, that I barely got to help. See evidence below.
How to make Linguine with Fresh Clams
- First thing’s first. Clean your clams. (See instructions below.)
- Sweat a little bit of garlic in some olive oil, then add the uncooked clams along with a little bit of white wine and water. Cover and wait until each little clam opens up.
- Once the clams open up, use a slotted spoon to take them out. Take the clams out of the shells. Set aside.
- Keep the liquid in the pot and simmer until reduced. Transfer to a liquid measuring cup.
- At this point, bring a giant pot of water to a rolling boil. Add salt. It should taste like the sea.
- Add butter, more garlic, shallots, and red pepper flakes to same pot. Sweat the veggies until soft, and then add white wine. Reduce again, and add lemon juice. Add the reserved clam and wine juice back to the pot.
- Continue to simmer the mixture until slightly reduced.
- While the sauce reduces, cook the pasta. I made homemade linguini, but fresh store-bought works just as well.
- Add the reserved clams, pasta, lemon zest, and parsley to the sauce. Toss until combined.
- Season with salt and pepper
Does it matter what kind of clams you use?
Yes! I like littleneck clams or manila clams. Do NOT use Cherry Neck, those guys are huge, and tend to be a little more tough.
How to clean clams
Add the clams to a big bowl full of cold water. Add a few teaspoons of salt. Stir. Let the clams sit for about 10 minutes. Stir again. Use your hands or a slotted spoon to scoop the clams out of the water. Discard the water and sand that has accumulated at the bottom. Repeat process two more times.
Substitutions, Tips and Tricks for Recipe Success
- Use a dry white wine that you would enjoy drinking. There will be leftovers.
- After transferring the clam juice and wine mixture to the measuring cup, there will likely be sand at the bottom. Be sure to leave that out when adding the mixture back to the pot.
- If you don’t have shallot, yellow onion will also work
- For an even more citrus-forward flavor, add more lemon juice and zest
- Do not overcook the clams! The second they open up, pull them off the heat.
- If any clams don’t open, discard them.
What to serve with Easy Linguine with Clams
- 3 lbs. littleneck clams
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 5 large garlic cloves, sliced and divided
- 1 cup dry white wine, divided
- 1/4 cup water
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup finely chopped shallots (about 2 large shallots)
- 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- zest of two lemons (about 1 tablespoon)
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1/2 cup chopped parsley, plus more for garnish
- 1 lb. fresh linguine
- Add clams to a large bowl and cover with cold water. Add in two teaspoons of salt. Stir and let clams sit for about 10 minutes. Use your hands to remove the clams from the water and into a colander, pour the water and any accumulated sand out. Repeat process two more times.(I like to prep all of my ingredients while the clams soak and make any sides I'll be serving.)
- Heat a large pot to a medium heat. Add olive oil. Add 1/2 of the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds to one minute or until it's slightly softened. Be careful not to burn. Add white wine, water and clams. Stir and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and over. Cook for about 8-10 minutes or until the clams open up.
- Use a slotted spoon to spoon the clams out. Discard any clams that did not open. Bring the wine mixture to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 4-5 minutes until slightly reduced. Pour liquid into a liquid measuring cup and reserve. Wipe pan clean. Remove all clams from shells and set aside. (If you want a pretty presentation only remove about 3/4 of the clams from the shells.
- Bring another large stock pot filling with water to a rolling boil while you cook the rest of the sauce.
- Put the same pot you cooked the clams in back over a medium heat. Add butter. Once butter has melted, add shallots, remaining garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes. Season with a little bit of salt and pepper.
- Add remaining wine. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer until reduced by half. Pour the reserved clam and wine mixture in. There may be some sand at the bottom of the mixture, BE CAREFUL TO LEAVE THAT OUT. Bring the mixture to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer until slightly reduced, about 4-5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low.
- While the sauce simmers, add the pasta to the boiling water. Cook until just under aldente. Use tongs to transfer the pasta to the sauce, reserve salty cooking liquid. Add lemon zest, parsley, clams, and 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta water. Toss to combine. If needed, add more pasta waster to loosen the sauce up. Season with salt and pepper.
- Pour the pasta into a large serving dish, and if you reserved some of the whole clams, nestle them into the pasta. Garnish with chopped parsley.