Easy Eats

Clams with Pasta

This is probably one of the easiest possible dishes you can make. People are always shocked with the ease of it. There are only a few steps and it takes about 20 minutes start to finish. The hardest part: Buying clams. These days you might be able to find them in your Supermarket although they may be a bit pricey. If you don’t know how to look for good clams, basically for this dish you want smaller ones and when buying clams you always want to make sure they are alive. They should be on ice. They should react to you by closing a bit tighter if you touch them. They are clams though. It’s not like they are going to jump up and invite you to Happy Hour.

Ultimately, if you get a bunch of dead ones you will know, because they won’t open when you cook them later which means you will have pasta with rocks. You can’t eat them if they don’t open unless you enjoy serious food poisoning.

Per serving, I think this is a fairly economical dish considering all you really need is clams (probably $12) and a few ingredients. (Namely, pasta which hopefully you have.) It could easily serve 4 people if you served it with some bread. Here are the specifics:

Serves 4-6.
Prep Time
Total Time

Just a moment please...


Clam Linguine

A fancy pasta dish featuring fresh clams that is actually incredibly fast and easy to prepare.


1 "bushel" of clams. About 50. About 3 pounds
1 pound linguine or spaghetti
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
Red pepper flake (optional)
Chopped parsley (optional)
Parmesan (optional)
Print Recipe  


1) When you get home with your clams, put them in a big bowl and fill it up with water. Let them sit in the fridge for a few hours and change the water once. This will flush out any sand.

2) Place your largest skillet or wok over medium high heat and add oil. Then add all clams. Cover so clams can steam for a few minutes.

3) Meanwhile cook pasta according to package, but slightly under cook it.

4) After about five minutes most of the clams should be opening. Add the garlic and red pepper if you’re using it. Cover and cook for a few more minutes.

5) When clams are all opened, turn off heat and cover them.

6) When you drain your pasta, be sure and save a cup of pasta water for later. Add undercooked pasta to the clams and turn heat back on. Stir until pasta becomes completely cooked. If it looks dry, add reserved pasta water.
7) Serve with some Parm or chopped parsley if you so desire.

Lookin good guys.

Lookin good guys.

The important thing about clams is they live in sand. Even if you can’t see the sand, they have sand all in their little cracks. You do not want pasta with sand so we need to flush them out. Just put them in a big bowl and fill it up with water. You will be shocked at how much sand you can flush out. You can do this hours ahead as long as it is cold water and you keep them in the frig.

Taking a bath.

Taking a bath.

Ok. Now get a big wok sort of pan or a big skillet and get your oil heated up. After it gets warm throw in all your clams. Also, get your water started for pasta.

They did not like this part.

They did not like this part.

Give them a few stirs and after about 5 minutes a few of them will be opening. Now is the time to add your garlic and red pepper if you are using it. Now you want to cook these bad boys until they are almost all open probably another 5 minutes. If you cover them for a few minutes it will speed up the process.

This took like 5 minutes.

This took like 5 minutes.

Notice all that clam juiciness in the bottom of the pan? You want that. When they get all open (note that the ones in the above photo are not ready yet. I took this photo right after I added the garlic and red pepper.) But, when they are all open, turn off the heat and cover them.

Now you want to cook your pasta and this is the secret: under cook it. Just pull it about two minutes before you normally would. It should still have a lot of bite to it. Strain it (keep a cup of the pasta water). Add the undercooked pasta to your clams and turn the heat back on. Stir stir stir until your pasta becomes completely cooked. If it looks dry, put in your reserved pasta water.

That’s it. Serve with some Parm or chopped parsley if you so desire.

Finished Deal

A few notes on this dish:

– It was seriously maybe the easiest dish I’ve made on Macheesmo. The only thing easier is probably this or this.

– Bets mentioned that her mom used to pick the clams out of the shells for her. I didn’t do that because that makes this dish a lot of work. That is not the goal of this dish.

– I used spaghetti instead of linguine. I purchased linguine. I intended to use linguine. But when I was ready to make the pasta I just instinctively reached into my pasta container and pulled out about a pound of spaghetti and threw it in. Only then did I realize my mistake and I didn’t want to waste the pasta. It was just fine with spaghetti obviously.

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4 comments on “Clams with Pasta

  1. My mom used to make a version of this with canned clams. Not as pretty or maybe as fresh tasting but pretty easy to throw together out of the things you have in your cabinet. I think she used one can of clams, butter, parsley and some red pepper flakes. So cook the pasta, warm up the clams in the butter, parsley and red pepper flakes and then toss the two together with a decent handful of parmesan cheese. Ta-dah!!

    Anyhow Nick, your recipe looks better than mine, the site is amazing and I wish that you were cooking for me!

  2. Heya, yea you can definitely use canned clams. It would be a lot cheaper and easier, but if you can find fresh, I definitely recommend them. It is worth the difference in price.

    Thanks for the love.

  3. This is a really great, easy delicious dish that I think totally embodies the point of the site: food doesn't have to be complicated to be good. However, I think what's great about the post is that it uses fresh clams and tells you how to handle them — easy. To use canned clams puts you back in the realm of Rachel Ray, and you might as well buy frozen Clams Casino at the A&P.

    While I understand that what i've just said might make it hard for some people to continue reading — what an asshole — I have a quick tip that makes this process even easier, and a little more hardcore: don't bother straining the pasta and keeping some of the water. Pull the pasta out of the water with tongs and add it directly to your clams. This way, the pasta is still coated with its starch and drenched in pasta water. Then add a splash of the water (what you would have saved aside) for the sauce. This is actually a good practice for any pasta dish.

    my last thing is that as optional ingredients, halved cherry tomatoes are great, as are shell beans. Both together are really great. You'd add these right around when the clams are beginning to open, in other words just to get them hot.

  4. I think that is mostly right. In my mind there is a pretty fundamental difference between canned clams (people have been canning food to preserve it for a long time) and some frozen preserved dish with tons of additives. That said, your point is valid. When it is this simple, you should be using fresh if you can get them and it is within your budget.

    Awesome tips too. I realized after I read them that I DO NOT HAVE TONGS. How have I made it this far in my cooking adventure without tongs?

    Strange, but justifies a Target trip. Thanks for the comment though!

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