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Spaghetti with Clams in a White Sauce - Spaghetti alle Vongole in Bianco


Spaghetti alle Vongole, or with Clams: Mix well, and serve!

Spaghetti alle Vongole, or with Clams: Mix well, and serve!

Spaghetti with clams is the quintessential summer dish, and is amazingly refreshing on a hot day. Though you can use canned shellfish packed in their juice to make spaghetti alle vongole, live clams are far better, and I also find frozen clams to be superior to canned. I generally omit the tomatoes because I find that they overshadow the flavor of the clams.

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes


  • An eight-ounce (200 g) jar of shelled clams, a 1-pound package (400 g) frozen clams, whose net weight will be about 200 g, or two pounds (1 k) small fresh live clams (how to prepare live clams)
  • 2 small cloves garlic, minced
  • A small bunch of parsley, minced
  • A half a dried red pepper, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 to 4 peeled and seeded or canned plum tomatoes, diced (optional)
  • Salt to taste
  • A pound (450 g) of spaghetti


If you opt for fresh clams, they should be tightly closed and shouldn’t smell. Scrub them well and let them sit in salted water for several hours, so they can purge themselves of sand. Boil them in just a little bit of water (or better yet, steam them), and when they open, drain them and stir them, shells and all, into the sauce. Half the fun of eating spaghetti alle vongole is fishing out the shells and sucking the sauce off them.

The above was advice, and now to the instructions: If you are using live clams, begin steaming them – they are done when they’ve opened, and it won’t take long. Also, have the pasta water ready.

Using a large pot, gently sauté the garlic and the chili pepper in the oil, adding the parsley when the mixture starts to brown. Be careful not to let it burn, and if you're using frozen clams (which come in a block, frozen in their juice), add them at this point and simmer, flipping the block occasionally so it thaws from both sides. Meanwhile, start cooking the spaghetti.

If you are instead using fresh or canned clams, add the cooked clams and some of their juice, or the juice of the canned clams, to the garlic mixture. If you are using tomato, add it too. Simmer the sauce until the pasta is done. If you are using canned clams, stir them into the sauce at this point; cooked longer, they become tough. Drain the pasta, stir it into the sauce, and serve without cheese.

Here is an easier way: if you are using fresh clams, scrub them, purge them, and cook them till they open in boiling water. Meanwhile, mince and sauté a clove of garlic, a red pepper, and a bunch of parsley. Add a couple spoonfuls of broth from the fresh shellfish or the juice of the canned shellfish to the garlic mixture, and season it with salt to taste. Stir the shellfish into the sauce, cook for a minute longer, and stir the sauce into the spaghetti. Serve without cheese.

Either method will serve four, and if you use canned clams this is perfect for camping where water is not a problem.

Note: If any of the shellfish are still shut tight when you’ve finished cooking them, throw them out! DON'T EAT THEM! They were already dead when you began to cook them and could make you quite sick.

Other Favorite Summer Fish Recipes
Other Favorite Summer Recipes

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