Busy moms, I applaud you! Actually I bow down to you. I have no idea how you do it. I’m neither a mom, nor blessed with any innate organizational skills. My own mother had six kids in eight years, and we had sit-down family dinners every night (couldn’t afford to go out!) When I ask her how she managed, she just shrugs and tells me she had a lot of energy back then.
This spaghetti with clams recipe is for busy moms and busy not-moms. It’s for those of us who sometimes (often) forget to plan, wait until we’re hungry to think about dinner, but have the foresight to keep a well-stocked pantry. It’s easy and takes about 30 minutes or so to make, depending on how quickly you can bring a pot of water to a boil on your stove.
The recipe uses canned minced clams, the clam juice in the cans, some olive oil, white wine, lemon zest, parsley, and plenty of garlic to make the sauce. You prep the ingredients while the water for the pasta is coming to a boil, and you make the sauce while the spaghetti is cooking. Toss everything together at the end. If you want to get a little fancy, add some chopped olives or marinated artichoke hearts at the end.
Almost all of the alcohol will boil off from the wine in this recipe as you cook it, leaving just the flavor. If you want to sub the wine for something else, you can just add water with a teaspoon or two of lemon juice.
Do all of the prep work while the water is coming to a boil.
- 1/2 pound (8 ounces) spaghetti pasta (can up to 3/4 pound of pasta if needed)
- Salt for pasta water
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced (about a heaping tablespoon)
- Pinch of red chili pepper flakes
- 2 6-ounce cans minced clams (including the liquid)
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil (1 Tbsp of salt for every 2 quarts of water). While the water is heating, prep the garlic, lemon zest, and parsley.
2 Add the spaghetti to the boiling water, set your timer for 2 minutes less than the recommended time (so you can be assured that you are cooking the pasta al dente). Cook the spaghetti uncovered in vigorously boiling water. While the spaghetti cooks, prepare the clam sauce.
3 Heat 3 Tbsp of olive oil in a sauté pan on medium heat. Add the minced garlic and the red chili pepper flakes. Cook for 30 seconds to a minute, until the garlic just is on the edge of browning. Then add the white wine to the pan. Open the cans of clams and squeeze out the clam juice from the cans into the pan as well. Raise the temperature to high and let boil sauce the sauce reduces as the spaghetti cooks. (Put pan on largest burner on high heat to help the sauce reduce more quickly.)
4 About the same time the spaghetti is finishing its cooking, the sauce should be reduced by about two-thirds. There should be about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of liquid still in the pan. Add the chopped clams, and return to a simmer. Then stir in the minced parsley and the lemon zest.
5 When the pasta is done to the point of al dente (cooked but still a little firm when you bite), drain it and place it in a serving bowl. Pour the sauce over the spaghetti and toss to combine. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Serve with a little more fresh parsley sprinkled over the top. Serve immediately.