Spaghetti with Clams

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.

Spaghetti with Clams on Simply Recipes

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.

Spaghetti with Clams Recipe

  • Cook time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 3 to 4.

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.

Ingredients

  • 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

Method

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.

spaghetti-clams-1 spaghetti-clams-2

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.

spaghetti-clams-3 spaghetti-clams-4

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.)

spaghetti-clams-5 spaghetti-clams-6

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.

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Spaghetti with Clams on Simply Recipes

30 Comments

  1. Peter Keim

    Very similar to my version of this. For more interest and some richness, I usually saute minced shallots with the garlic, and add about 1/4 to 1/3 cup low-fat cream cheese to the sauce, blend it in well and reduce the liquid as directed above, but perhaps not as much. This produces a nice creamy clam sauce with terrific flavor. A little freshly grated parmesan served on top just gilds the lily!

    • Linda

      I took Peter’s advice and used minced shallots and added 1/3c of cream to it. Kids really liked it. I happened to have fresh claims so I boiled them first to get juice and deshelled them to add at the end. I also added in some sliced up tilapia for extra protein! I would make this again! Thanks, Elise.

  2. Elise

    My mom (a busy mother of four) used to make this for dinner frequently. It was one of my favorite meals growing up and I’ve found myself thinking about it recently. I never knew what to call it but as soon as I saw the post I knew that this was it. Thank you so much for posting this! I can’t wait to make it.
    -(another) Elise

  3. Rachel

    I have 5 kids, 8 years apart. This looks great! I love quick, simple dinners. And my kids love all noodles. Thanks!

  4. Alison

    Yum. Love it!

  5. Bob Y

    Years and years ago I had a friend who followed the recipe on the side of the Progresso minced clam can. This is very similar I think, his but the can called for rosemary. In that I live in the desert and don’t really trust the seafood here, the canned clams are great.

  6. Chichi

    This looks so delicious. Definitely making this for dinner this week. Thanks for sharing Elise

  7. V.

    This isn’t only easy, but crazy delicious, too! I’ve done the dish many times – not the exact way you did, but still – and it’s always so good.

  8. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry)

    Even though I live in New England, I’m not close enough to the fish market to get fresh clams on a moment’s notice. Canned clams are a fixture in my pantry, as are all of the other ingredients in this dish. Sometimes I toss in chunks of canned tomato, too.

  9. Julie

    I made this just the other night using a giant can of clams from Costco. Such a quick and delicious dish.

  10. Lynette

    Wow – after all these years I figured out why I keep coming back to your blog. There are two reasons: 1) All of your recipes work! Occasionally I tweak a thing or two to suit my preferences, but everything is basically SOLID and the results are delicious! 2) The amount/quality of photos. I don’t want to see two dozen photos of the process… I just want to see the finished product! Occasionally you add an extra (helpful) photo that has to do with technique or a particular ingredient… but you don’t overdo it. Thank you for NOT giving me a visual photolog on how to dice onions! You’re doing a great job, Elise. Thank you!

  11. Ashley

    This recipe looks to die for! I have never cooked with clams before and this recipe seems like it would be perfect with it. Also, I admire how you give moms around the world credit for their hard work. I’m not a mom either but I don’t know how they do it day in and day out. Thanks for the great recipe!

  12. Jenny

    That’s how my grandma used to make it. My favorite meal to this day. Thanks Elise :)

  13. Joni Pensack

    Thx for reminding me of this delicious and easy dish. I plan to make it very soon. My original recipe came from Regis Filbin’s wife. (NYC Regis morning show) and it was quite similar to yours. I’ll surprise my husband soon as it was always one of his favorites.

  14. Sandy S

    Minced clams are on the shopping list! Looking forward to making this with GF noodles. Oh my! Who is not busy these days?! And, I have been wondering, do women get vacations? I mean really?! It’s just go, go, go and start all over again. Throw in a broken pc or some such thing and we just go into crisis mode and swim through it. So, yes! … Thank you Elise for helping with delicious recipes that help keep our energy and spirits up!

  15. stacy

    Thank you for your shout out to mom’s today. I needed that! I LOVE my kiddos, and love that I get to stay home with them, but my spirit has just been a little blah lately. Feeling over worked and under paid. Ha;) Having little ones is physically demanding. I think I’m getting old! Ha ha.
    Anyhow, two of my greatest loves are family, and cooking delicious foods for them. Your blog has been a great resource for me.
    Some of my favorite recipes of yours that I keep in my back pocket when the kids are hungry and I’m getting a late start is your simple buttery tomato pasta (we make it every Sunday after church), and the asian tuna salad…which totally took me by surprise! Unbelievable taste centered around canned tuna…who would have thought? It comes together so fast yet tastes like I’ve been working on it all day. Oh and we adore your cornbread in the skillet, and your simple coleslaw. Great finds!
    Thank you!

  16. Brian

    Saw this posted yesterday and HAD to change my dinner plans. My kids are all grown and off on their own, I’m definitely NOT a mom, but this is such a quick meal to throw together. I like to toss in a little minced onion or shallot too and this time I took your suggestion and added some chopped artichoke hearts. Loved it!

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  17. Sandy S

    We had this tonight and really enjoyed it! I made it with lemon juice and water as I didn’t have an appropriate white wine and added some ribbons of chard to the pasta water as the pasta was finishing. I also added about 1/4 cup of sliced black olives to the sauce just before serving. Truly turned out very good and will be keeping minced clams in the pantry in the future. This sauce comes together like magic! I can see making use of it for other ingredients, as well. So easy and so good!

  18. Arden

    Great classic recipe. I find I like to make it with lots of fresh chopped “green stuff” — most notably several scallions (green onions) with the green parts chopped, some added early in the process to cook down a little and the rest added just at the end to be fresh. I also often add a good glug of white wine, and sometimes a splash of heavy cream if I have it on hand and am feeling indulgent. Enjoyed this recipe, as always.

  19. Eileen

    Where is the other 1 tablespoon of olive oil used? It only says add 2 tablespoons to the pan.

    • Elise

      Hi Eileen, that was a typo, thanks for the catch! Use 3 Tbsp of olive oil in the pan.

  20. Elise Lafosse

    Thank you so much for this recipe! I make linguine and clams all the time, but your recipe trumps mine by far! That bit of lemon just added something. Loved it and will make it again.

  21. Sandy S

    Just have to say that this has become my new ‘go to recipe’ when I am short on time! It comes together so fast and is easy to ‘add to’ for variations. It also helps that I have fresh GF pasta available locally. Lemon thyme flavored pasta is dynamite with this clam sauce!

  22. Patti Andrews

    Great recipe! Thanks for sharing! My husband loved it! I did tweak it a little by adding sun-dried tomatoes and a few tbs. of butter! Outrageous!!

  23. Julia

    Great for a quick weeknight dinner. Added shrimps because the hubby likes them. Seasoned with pepperoncino-infused oil on the table. Another winner!

  24. Todd Watrous

    Can I add some petite peas,and a little smart balance? Also chicken broth instead of wine?

    • Elise

      Hi Todd, you can try adding peas if you want. I would use clam juice and not chicken broth if replacing the wine, and I would add a tablespoon or so of lemon juice. As for smart balance, I do not use that product and wouldn’t know what to tell you about it. Whatever you do, please let us know how the recipe turns out for you!

  25. Julia

    I’ve made this several times, but tonight I followed the recipe to the letter. Major yums! Do not skip the wine if at all possible! Elise knows what she’s talking about :)

  26. Todd watrous

    Smart balance is a butter substitute,like Marge…..wine is ok…

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