You can make a delicious White Wine Clam Sauce for Pasta in 20 minutes! Use canned clams for a convenient and economical option. In the time it takes to boil some pasta, your white clam sauce will be ready!
If you've ever felt intimidated about making linguine and clams because fresh shellfish is expensive, has to be cleaned and you don't have access to it anyway...I've got you!
This White Wine Clam Sauce for Pasta uses canned clams and is so delicious!
Canned clams are convenient, economical, and made healthy here by rinsing and draining them. We're getting rid of excess sodium and unwanted chemicals and replacing that liquid with bottled clam juice.
There's no shame in making linguine with canned clams! I grew up eating a version of this almost every Friday. It's always been one of our favorite Italian Lent Recipes and like Pasta e Piselli, this makes a frequent appearance on our table.
It'll be ready in 20 minutes or less, including time to cook the pasta.
Are you ready for some garlicky goodness?
Canned clams: Use chopped clams, whole baby clams or even canned steamers (affiliate link). Minced clams are cut too small for my liking, but use what you have.
White wine: The best white wine to use for cooking is one that you would drink and that's not too sweet. I prefer Sauvignon Blanc here, but you could use Pinot Grigio or sherry.
Cooking wine is very salty, so I don't recommend using it here.
If you need to omit the alcohol, you can stir some extra reserved pasta water into the linguine after it's cooked and drained.
Clam juice: Since we're draining the canned clams due to the chemicals and sodium, we need to replace that liquid with something better.
Bottled clam juice usually contains simple ingredients like clam broth and water. Look for it near the canned clams at the grocery store. You also could purchase it online (affiliate link).
Shallot: If you're not familiar with shallots, they look like small brown onions (see photo) but are purple on the inside. They taste like mild onions, yet sweeter. I love them in this dish, but you could substitute a couple of tablespoons of chopped red onion if needed.
Pasta: Use any kind of long pasta, such as linguine, fettuccine, spaghetti or bucatini. I made bucatini with clams for the photos in this post.
How to make white wine clam sauce
See the recipe card at the end of this post for full instructions, but here's an overview:
- Cook the shallots in butter and olive oil for a few minutes. Add the chopped garlic and cook for another minute.
- Add the wine, clam juice, seasonings and bay leaf. Simmer for 3-4 minutes.
- Stir in the drained and rinsed clams. Cook until heated through.
- Turn off the heat and squeeze in the juice from half a lemon. Add parsley.
- To prevent the garlic from burning, don't use a garlic press. Coarsely chop the garlic instead.
- Drain and rinse the canned clams to get rid of excess sodium and unwanted chemicals. Use bottled clam juice instead.
- This clam sauce recipe makes enough for one pound of pasta. If making less pasta, just add as much sauce as you need to your drained pasta. Then you can cook more pasta the next day to use up the rest of the sauce.
Can you use fresh clams?
If you want to make linguine alle vongole (linguine with clams) using fresh clams, you can use two pounds of littlenecks. You'll need to clean them following the method described in my post on Beer-Steamed Littleneck Clams.
Then you'd add the raw clams to the sauce right after adding the wine and clam juice. The sauce would have to cook until the clam shells open. Discard any clams that don't open.
What to serve with it
Italian clam pasta recipes never call for Parmesan cheese, and I encourage you to skip it. There's enough salty flavor as is. (But I won't judge you!)
To make this a complete meal, you can add quartered artichoke hearts to the sauce. I buy the canned ones, drain them and stir them in when it's time to add the clams.
Frequently asked questions
Yes, canned clams are fully cooked. They just need to be heated in this clam sauce recipe.
You can store clam sauce for 3-4 days in the refrigerator. Linguine with clams is best eaten immediately, but you can refrigerate leftovers for 3-4 days. Drizzle some olive oil onto the leftover pasta before reheating it, so it's not dry.
I don't recommend it, because the clams would likely become chewy.
More seafood recipes
- Creamy New England Clam Chowder
- Broiled Scallops with Parmesan Bread Crumbs
- Italian Fried Calamari Recipe
- Easy Cilantro-Lime Shrimp
If you try this White Wine Clam Sauce for Pasta, be sure to leave a comment and rating!
White Wine Clam Sauce for Pasta
- 4 tablespoons salted butter
- 3 ounces olive oil (plus extra to drizzle on each serving)
- 1 medium shallot (peeled and chopped finely)
- 4 cloves garlic (Coarsely chopped; don't make too small or they can burn.)
- ¼ cup white wine (see notes)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup bottled clam juice (See notes. Shake the bottle first.)
- ⅓ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 pound linguine (or bucatini, fettuccine or spaghetti)
- 4 6.5-ounce cans chopped clams (can use whole baby clams or canned steamers)
- juice from ½ lemon
- 1 or 2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves (optional; rinsed)
- 2 ladles reserved pasta water (as needed)
- Fill a large pasta pot halfway with salted, hot water and place it on the stove, covered, on high heat.
- While the water is heating, make the clam sauce in a large skillet. Peel and chop the shallot. Heat the butter and olive oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. When melted, add the shallots, stirring a bit. Lower the heat to medium and let the shallots cook for three minutes.
- While the shallots are cooking, peel and coarsely chop the garlic. After the shallots have cooked for three minutes, stir the garlic into the pan. Let it cook for a minute.
- Add the wine, bay leaf, clam juice, ⅓ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of red pepper flakes to the skillet. Stir to combine. Lower the heat a bit until the pan is simmering gently. Simmer for three or four minutes.
- When the water is boiling in your large pot, add the pasta and stir it in until it's submerged. Leave the lid off and cook the pasta until it's al dente, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. While the pasta is still cooking, use a ladle to scoop out about a cup of the pasta water to reserve in a separate bowl.
- Drain and rinse the canned clams and add them to the sauce. Continue cooking the sauce for another three or four minutes, just until the clams are heated through. Turn off the heat and stir in the lemon juice and parsley, if using.
- When the pasta is done, drain it in a colander in the sink. Then add the pasta to the pan of clam sauce and toss to combine. Stir in ¼ cup of the reserved pasta water, (or a little more, especially if you skipped the wine).
- Serve in bowls with extra olive oil drizzled on top, if desired. Store leftover pasta with sauce in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. To reheat, drizzle on more olive oil first. (See notes.)
(Recipe Source: Cooking with Mamma C. Originally published on June 30, 2015 and updated now with an improved recipe, more photos and additional information.)