Ah, the classic dish of linguini with clam sauce (or spaghetti alle vongole), one of my favorite Italian meals. I love the light fresh taste of this dish. Very popular in Italy, linguini with clam sauce is considered part of the Neopolitan cuisine. This recipe uses just a few ingredients; clams, garlic, parsley and white wine. Its’ simple preparation is what makes this dish perfect.
Littleneck clams are typically used for this recipe, however, I have chosen to use cherrystone because I like a big meaty clam (plus the store I go to never has littleneck clams). I use canned clam meat to supplement the fresh clams, but you are more than welcome to use all fresh clams. Just use 3 to 4 times the amount of fresh clams called for in the recipe.
A Little Bit About Clams
There are a few tips about cooking with clams you should know:
- Do not buy clams that are cracked;
- Thoroughly clean clams before cooking. They can contain lots of grainy sand, which can be unpleasant in your final dish; and
- Throw away any clams that do not open after cooking.
To clean: Soak the fresh clams in cool water for 30 minutes to an hour to allow the clams to spit out any sand. Remove each clam from the water and scrub the outside to remove any remaining particles.
Now that we’ve got that covered, let’s get cooking! As always, I recommend using fresh pasta as opposed to dried. Once you go fresh, you’ll never go back! However, dried will work in a pinch if that’s all you’ve got.
Cook fresh linguini in a pot of salted water for 2-3 minutes and drain. At this point, the pasta should be VERY al dente. Rinse with cold water to prevent further cooking.
Melt the butter in a skillet over medium-low heat and add garlic and shallots. Check out this post from SeriousEats on how to properly mince shallots to get the best flavor. Cook for 5 minutes then add the wine and parsley. Simmer until reduced, about 10 minutes.
Add 2 tbsp. of the reserved clam liquid, the canned clam meat and the whole fresh clams. Cover and cook for about 5-10 minutes, or until fresh clams open. Discard any clams that don’t open.
Add cooked linguini, toss, and cook for 1-2 minutes, until linguini is cooked, but still a touch firm (al dente).
Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with fresh lemon and parsley and serve.
How do you like to eat your linguini with clam sauce? Do you prefer a light recipe like this, or a creamier version? What is your favorite type of clam to use?