Top | Fish and Seafood

Basic Clam Pasta

(recipe, Caroline Cummins)


Unlike Linguine with Clams, with its luxurious indulgences of tomatoes, basil, and whole fresh bivalves, this dish is a clean-out-the-cupboards pantry staple. Sure, you can fancy it up with fresh steamer clams (such as Manilas or littlenecks) and the zest and juice of a plump lemon. But at heart, this easy weeknight dinner is just what its title promises: pasta, canned chopped clams, and a quick white-wine sauce.


  1. 1 lb. dried spaghetti or linguine
  2. 2 Tbsp. olive oil, plus more as needed
  3. ½ medium onion, minced
  4. 2 to 4 garlic cloves, minced
  5. ¼ tsp. red-pepper flakes
  6. ¼ cup dry white wine or dry white vermouth
  7. 2 cans (6.5 ounces each) chopped clams (see Note)
  8. 2 Tbsp. butter
  9. ¼ cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley (optional)
  10. Zest and juice of 1 fresh lemon (optional)
  11. Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the package directions while you prepare the clam sauce.
  2. Put the olive oil in a large skillet or saucepan. Add the minced onion and cook over medium heat until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and chile flakes, and cook for another 30 seconds to a minute or so. Add the alcohol, then the clams and their juices. (If using fresh clams, cover the pot and steam the clams open; otherwise, turn the heat down to medium-low until the pasta is ready. You'll need more alcohol, too, if you're going the fresh-clam route.) Swirl the butter into the still-hot sauce until it melts.
  3. Add the sauce to the freshly drained pasta and dress it quickly. Ladle out portions of the dressed pasta and garnish with the minced parsley, if using. (If you've got that fresh lemon on hand, this is when you'd sprinkle its zest and juice over each serving.) Pass the salt and pepper at the table.


Canned chopped clams are cheap and easy to keep on hand. But many common brands include questionable preservatives, such as sodium tripolyphosphate and calcium disodium EDTA. So try to find brands with as few ingredients as possible — preferably just clams in their juices, water, and salt.