Pasta with White Clam Sauce

Pasta with White CLam SauceLinguini with white clam sauce is probably one of the most common recipes on the internet.  It is delicious, easy to make, and adaptable to pantry instead of fresh ingredients.  If you hit your local search engine, you will turn up hundreds, if not thousands, of versions of this recipe.  Since I live in a landlocked state, clams are one of the things at home that will have me reaching for the pantry.  So the simple supper tonight was pasta with white clam sauce.  This is a southern Italian dish from Campania, the area including Naples.  Linguini is the traditional pasta for this (defined as a slightly oval pasta 4mm in width), but I did do the pasta from scratch and was not that precise. What follows is my variation and how I prepare it for myself:

  • Olive Oil
  • Garlic 2 cloves
  • Red Pepper Flakes – generous pinch
  • Parsley – ¼ cup chopped
  • Anchovy fillets – 1
  • White Wine – ½ cup (If you don’t want any alcoholic ingredients, you can replace with lemon juice)
  • Clams – 1 10oz can of chopped clams, juice reserved
  • Pasta – 1/2lb
  • Salt and Pepper

 Step 1) Get a large pot of water for your pasta on the stove over medium-high heat.  Have a basket or strainer insert for the pot.  The MOST important part of this dish turning out correctly is the proper Italian way of finishing your pasta in your sauce. See Step 6 below.

 Step 2) Put a large pan, larger than you think you will need, over medium heat and add the olive oil.

 Garlic and anchovy base

Step 3) When the oil is hot and shimmering, add 2 crushed garlic cloves and the anchovy.  Stir frequently as the garlic flavors the oil and the anchovy dissolves.

 Sauce Beginnings

Step 4) When you smell the garlic and the anchovy is gone, remove the cloves.  Add the clam juice, white wine, and red pepper flakes.  Increase the heat to medium-high and let the sauce reduce.

Clams, Yum

Step 5) About now, the pasta water should be coming to a rolling boil – salt it, let it reboil and drop the pasta.  At the same time, add the clams to the sauce. Stir both as they cook.

Step 5A) Since I used fresh pasta, I dropped the clams into the sauce before the pasta dropped because it only needed 2 minutes in the water.

Pasta and Parsley

Step 6) Pull the pasta from the water in the strainer 1-2 minutes before it is “al dente” and transfer to your sauce.  Add the parsley.  Now stir to coat the pasta and make sure your sauce is thick enough.

 Step 7) If the sauce is too thick, add a tablespoon of the pasta water, if too thin, let it reduce slightly or pull the French cooking trick of adding a pat of butter to thicken it.

 Pasta with White CLam Sauce 2

Serve and enjoy with a glass of that white wine. The secret of this sauce is that it is not a sopping sauce.  There should be just enough liquid to coat every noodle and nary a drop draining to the plate.  If you think you have let too much boil off, add a little bit of the pasta’s cooking water to thin the sauce while cooking.

If you have fresh clams, you can modify the recipe as follows:

Step 4A) When you smell the garlic and the anchovy is gone, remove the cloves.  Add half cup of water, the white wine, red pepper flakes, and clams.  Put a lid on the pan and let the clams open.

Step 4B ) After approximately 5 minutes, your fresh clams should be popping open.  Take the lid off and remove the clams, draining the clam back into the pan as you remove them. Discard any unopened clams. Remove the clam meat from the shells and chop if so desired.

From here, go back to the original Step 5 and proceed through. Save a few shells to use as a garnish.