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Spaghetti with Clams

Photo: Claudia Concas

Spaghetti with Clams, the original recipe

Find out how to prepare the recipe for spaghetti with clams, in its tomato-less version.


19 December, 2020
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Season & Occasion

serves for


total time

0 HR 40 MIN


Spaghetti pasta
320 g
1 kg
10 g
Lemon zest
Chili pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
Black pepper


Spaghetti with clams is an iconic fish dish of Italian cuisine.  Creamy and briny, it is not difficult to prepare spaghetti with clams, but you do need to procure spanking fresh clams and follow some essential steps to ensure a perfect result. Here’s how to prepare your spaghetti alle vongole.

Wine pairing: Vermentino della Maremma

Step 01

cleaning clams

Photo: Claudia Concas

Put the clams in a bowl and cover them with cold water. Add the coarse salt and leave the clams in the fridge for 2 hours to filter out any grit and sand. Having done that, wash the clams under running cold water and tap them, one at a time, on the kitchen top. In this way, the empty or dead ones will open up and you can throw them away, thus preventing the risk of finding sand in your finished dish. Also remove any clams whose shells are broken or open. 

Step 02

parley clams for Spaghetti with Clams

Photo: Claudia Concas

Put the sprig of parsley, an unpeeled garlic clove and the halved chilli pepper into a wide shallow sauté pan. Add the clams and let them cook with the lid on over a high flame for a few minutes. When the shells have opened up, remove from the heat.

Step 03

filter the clams water for Spaghetti with Clams

Photo: Claudia Concas

Remove any clams that failed to open during the first cooking phase.  Shell half of them and keep the shells of the remaining ones. Place a fine sieve over a bowl. Line it with a piece of absorbent kitchen paper and filter the clam cooking juices, which you will need later to prepare the sauce. Squeeze out the absorbent paper thoroughly to recover all the liquid. In this way, you will have eliminated any impurities and sand contained in the clams. 


Step 04

garlic for Spaghetti with Clams

Photo: Claudia Concas

Gently fry two cloves of garlic and the chilli pepper in a trickle of oil using a non-stick frying pan. When the garlic turns golden brown, throw in the wine. Let the alcohol evaporate for a few moments and then add the filtered clam juice. 

Step 05

spaghetti and clams for Spaghetti with Clams

Photo: Claudia Concas

Reduce the sauce over a high heat for a few minutes and then add the clams, together with a generous seasoning of freshly ground pepper. After five minutes, turn off the heat. In the meantime, boil the spaghetti in plenty of salted water. Strain the spaghetti when ‘al dente’ and add them to the clam sauce. Toss briskly. 

Step 06

lemon zest for Spaghetti with Clams

Photo: Claudia Concas

Now sprinkle some roughly chopped parsley and grated lemon zest over the pasta. Toss the pasta one last time and serve.

Useful tips and interesting facts

Before being cooked, the clams must be placed in cold salted water, in some ways similar to seawater. The live clams will release their impurities and sand in the salty water. Choose medium/small clams for this recipe which will be easier to plate up and are always tastier.  Never add salt to the clam sauce because these molluscs are naturally briny. Taste the sauce to adjust the flavour as you go. Take care when sautéing the garlic to cut little slits on its surface; in this way the garlic will release its full flavour and aroma.  



You may prepare this spaghetti dish in a white clam sauce as described above or, in a more colourful version, with the addition of a few cherry tomatoes cut in half. If you prefer, shell all the clams beforehand so that the final dish looks neater and is easier to eat. In many parts of southern Italy, spaghetti and clams are served with the addition of salicornia, a sort of green alga which gives a very interesting taste to this first course. Blanch the salicornia in boiling water for 5 minutes before straining and add to the clam sauce shortly before it is completely cooked.


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