I have always loved linguine with clams, a simple, classic pasta dish. Honestly, what’s not to love? Called linguine alle vongole in Italian, this traditional Italian favorite is the perfect warm weather go-to pasta dish no matter where you live. Widespread and popular on almost every Italian coast, Naples boasts it all began there and is actually considered a must-have at special gatherings such as Christmas Eve dinners.
The simplicity of this dish can be deceiving, there are actually some important aspects to making linguini with clams authentically. Most importantly, red clam sauce is not the same thing, that’s an American variation, like noodles in Goulosh.
So let’s break this apart. An important (and basic) thing to remember is to not overcook the clams. Sounds easy I know, but people do it often. Clams do not tolerate a long cooking times, it makes them rubbery and tasteless. But the real secret of making this dish “authentic“, is achieving the right creaminess to bind all the ingredients together. The trick, drain the pasta before it reaches the al dente stage and finish cooking it in the clam juices, the starch in the pasta will do the rest.
For a dish with only a few ingredients, it’s amazing how much flavor you get. Anchovies, lemon zest, parsley and bread crumbs add lots of richness to this beloved Italian go-to. And time-wise, it’s a quick meal, but unlike others I make, this one can’t be made in advance. But, prep your ingredients and be ready, so when it’s go time, you can pull it all together in under 30 minutes.
Linguine With Clams
- 3 pounds littleneck clams, scrubbed
- 8 garlic cloves, divided
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 3/4 cup plain panko bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons, Extra Virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 3 oil-packed anchovy fillets
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 cup clam juice
- 12 ounces linguini
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped, divided
- Step 1 Fill a large stock pot with salted water and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, mince 3 of the garlic cloves and set aside.
- Step 2 Using a Dutch oven add 1 tablespoon butter and place over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted, add the bread crumbs and toast, stirring frequently until lightly golden, about 1-2 minutes. turn off the heat and add the minced garlic, lemon zest and parsley. Place in a small bowl and set aside.
- Step 3 Rinse out the Dutch oven and set aside. Using a parking knife, thinly slice the remaining 6 cloves of garlic. Place the Dutch oven back over a medium flame. Add the 1/4 cup olive oil and when hot, but not smoking, add the garlic and cook until fragrant and slightly golden, about 2 minutes. Add the anchovies and red pepper flakes, if using. Cook until the anchovies begin to break apart. Add the wine and simmer. Reduce the mixture by 1/2. Add the clams, stir well, cover and cook unto the clams open about 6 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the clams to a medium mixing bowl and cover with aluminum foil. Set aside.
- Step 4 By this point your water should be boiling, Add the linguini and cook till al dente, about 6 minutes. Do not drain the paste, reserve about 1 cup (or more) of pasta water. Using tongs, transfer the linguini directly to the Dutch oven with the clam liquid. Add 1/2 cup of the pasta water and clam juice and bring to a boil. Cook while stirring constantly reducing the liquid by 1/2 and until the sauce has thickened somewhat and is coating the linguini nicely, about 5 minutes. (Note: more pasta water can be added if need just do so in small amounts and readjust the seasoning to taste).
- Step 5 Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining parsley and 1 tablespoon butter. Add about 1/3 of the toasted bread crumb mixture to the linguini and mix well to combine.
- Step 6 To serve, divide the linguini among serving bowls, top with clams, sprinkle more bread-crumb mixture on top and drizzle lightly with olive oil.