Linguine with Clams

Cook, Mains, Recipes, Sunday Supper

This classic dish is easy to make at home. Its success relies on uncompromisingly fresh clams and fruity extra-virgin olive oil. For a beautiful presentation and fun eating, serve the clams in their shells, as the Italians do, and pick them up to eat with your hands.


Linguine with Clams


Kosher salt for purging clams and cooking pasta

1 cup (5 oz./155 g.) cornmeal

4 lb. (2 kg.) cockles or Manila clams, or 4 dozen small littleneck clams

1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml.) extra-virgin olive oil

5 large cloves garlic, minced

6 Tbs. (1/3 oz./10 g.) chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml.) dry white wine

Fine sea salt

1 lb. (500 g.) thin linguine or spaghetti


In a large bowl or other large vessel, combine 4 qt. (4 l.) water and 1/3 cup (3 oz./90 g.) kosher salt and stir until the salt dissolves, then stir in the cornmeal. Scrub the clams well with a stiff vegetable brush and add to the bowl. Add cold water to cover and let stand for 1-3 hours to purge the clams of any sand or grit. Drain well and rinse again, discarding any that do not close tightly to the touch.


In a deep frying pan large enough to accommodate the clams and pasta later, and with a tight-fitting lid, warm the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic, 4 tablespoons (1/4 oz./7 g.) of the parsley and the red pepper flakes and cook gently, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is softened but not colored, 3-4 minutes. Add the clams, wine and 1 teaspoon sea salt and immediately cover tightly. Raise the heat to medium and cook, occasionally shaking the pan for even cooking, until the clams open, about 10 minutes, depending on the type of clam used.


Uncover and use a spoon to toss the clams with the liquid in the pan. Lift out any empty shells and discard, and discard any clams that did not open. You can use the sauce with the clams in their shells or, if preferred, shell some of all of them. The sauce with be brothy and full of flavor.


While the clams are cooking, in a large pot, bring 5 qt. (5 l.) water to a rapid boil. Check the package directions for the cooking time, then add 2 tablespoons kosher salt and the pasta to the water, stir well, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is 1-2 minutes shy of being al dente.


Drain the pasta, add to the sauce in the pan, and place the pan over low heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons parsley and toss the pasta and clam sauce together for a minute or so. Some of the brothy sauce will be absorbed by the pasta, but plenty will remain, keeping the pasta very moist. Transfer to a warmed large, shallow serving bowl or individual shallow bowls and serve right away. Serves 4-6.

4 comments about “Linguine with Clams

  1. Mark

    I adore linguine with clam sauce, especially white clam sauce. I have some issues with this recipe, notably the cooking of parsley early on in the recipe (creates an off color) and the amount of salt in the sauce (too much…clams already have enough salt in them). Also, I like to add a squeeze of lemon and/or zest at the end to brighten it up.

    1. Deborah Kane

      You are right, Mark! There is normally no need for extra salt since the clams release their own salty sea brine. I normally use littleneck clams and have found that just a good scrubbing is fine without “purging”. I have never had a problem with sand. I too think that parsley should be added at the end without cooking. AND lemon to brighten is “spot on”.

  2. Mark

    Salma, white wine gives the sauce some acidity in addition to liquid. If you’re concerned about the alcohol content try to find a dry alcohol-free white wine, or if you want to omit wine completely substitute bottled clam juice and a couple squeezes of lemon juice (to taste) which will make up for the acid in the wine. Do this and taste before adding salt because you may not need the full amount depending on how salty the clam juice is.

    Another option is to drain some plain diced tomatoes and use that liquid which has some bite to it.


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