Fresh littleneck clams with garlic, white wine, parmesan cheese, and linguine can be on your dinner table in 30 minutes. This classic Italian pasta dish is easy to make but tastes like a special treat.
Let’s talk about today’s recipe. We have juicy, sweet, salty, briny fresh clams, in a sauce made with butter, olive oil, garlic, white wine, parmesan cheese, and that starchy pasta cooking water. The linguine finishes cooking in the sauce, soaking up all the flavors.
While using canned clams is a good option if you can’t make it to the grocery store, I think fresh clams really make the dish. I’ve had some not great experiences with wild clams where I soaked them and scrubbed them and did the cornmeal thing to try to purge them of sand and soaked again, and the clams still came out gritty and sandy. I sort of gave up on cooking clams after that.
But then I found out farm raised clams are already purged of sand and cleaned. All you need to do is rinse then under cold water. You want to cook them live so you do need to buy them on the same day you’re cooking them. Before cooking, throw out any clams that have broken shells, or any clams that are open and don’t close if you tap the shell.
I’ve had great luck buying farm-raised littleneck clams. My grocery store usually sells a 50-clam bag for $20. Assuming you have to pick out a few dead ones, that will still give you at least 10 clams per person in this recipe, which serves four. The farm-raised clams have never been sandy or gritty and never tasted off. They’re the same clams I use in my Cod with New England Clam Chowder Sauce. Perfection every time.
Here are the main ingredients for this recipe. There are the clams, some bottled clam juice, whole wheat linguine, white wine, parmesan cheese, minced garlic, and parsley.
Does anyone eat whole wheat pasta anymore? I know so many people who are on a diet or trying to eat lower carb who don’t eat pasta at all. They might substitute zucchini noodles, or maybe the higher protein pasta made with lentils. On the other hand, there are the pasta traditionalists who prefer regular pasta and don’t care for whole wheat.
I mean, there’s got to be some pasta-eaters looking for a middle ground. Some brands sell pasta that’s 50% whole grain, 50% white flour. Presumably someone is buying it.
I love the taste of 100% whole wheat pasta. I’m not cutting carbs, and zoodles just don’t have the same starchy taste. Jonathan, who won’t eat brown rice and doesn’t really like whole wheat bread, claims to genuinely like whole wheat pasta. Sometimes I want a particular shape that isn’t available in whole wheat, like the jumbo shells for my Mushroom Stuffed Shells. But most of the time, we eat whole wheat pasta.
Even though it has the same amount of calories as white pasta, I can really tell the difference when eating whole grains. If I have a big bowl of white flour pasta, I’ll go into full-on food coma after, needing a nap or a cup of coffee. But with the extra fiber in whole grain pasta, I don’t get that effect. Instead it’s a slow steady stream of energy, like you’re meant to get from carbs.
But that’s my personal preference. I’m not a nutritionist, and I think you should eat what you like. Please use any pasta you enjoy for this recipe.
Anyway, here are the steamed clams. Throw out any clams that don’t open after cooking.
Here’s that sauce with olive oil, garlic, wine, clam juice, parsley, and butter. After I took this picture, I poured this into the pot with the cooked pasta and added the parmesan cheese and some pasta cooking water. I added most of the clams, which I removed from the shells, and then finished cooking the pasta in the sauce.
I saved some clams in the shell to top the pasta with.
Linguine with Clam Sauce
- 12 ounces whole wheat linguine (or other long-cut pasta of choice)
- 40-50 farm-raised littleneck clams, rinsed
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/3 cup white wine
- 1 cup bottled clam juice
- 1/2 cup chopped parsley
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup shaved parmesan cheese
- Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. (While you are waiting, continue to next steps.) Cook pasta for 2 minutes less than package directions specify for al dente. Reserve at least 1 ½ cups pasta cooking water before draining. Drain pasta and return to pot.
- Cook clams. Add 1 cup water to the bottom of a large pot. Add clams. Turn heat to high and cover. Steam until all shells are opened, about 5 minutes. Keep an eye on it in case the foam bubbles over. Remove from heat and set aside. When clams are cool enough to handle, remove about half from the shells.
- Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add wine and scrape up any browned garlic from the bottom of the pan. Cook for 2 minutes. Add clam juice and turn heat to medium-high. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Add pepper to taste. (I find it won’t need salt with the saltiness of the clams.) Add parsley and butter and stir until butter melts.
- Pour the sauce into the pot with the drained pasta and put this pot over medium heat. Add the clams removed from the shells and the parmesan cheese. Toss to combine. Add a few splashes of reserved pasta cooking water and toss, adding more water until sauce clings to the pasta. Cook until pasta is al dente, about 2 more minutes, adding reserved cooking water as needed.
- Divide pasta between serving plates. Top with remaining clams (in shell).