Total Cooking Time: 30 minutes or less

The clam sauce recipe is a loved accompaniment to pasta, mainly spaghetti and linguine.

Italy has close to five thousand miles of coastline. So products from the sea are very common on Italian dinner tables.

They say that from the top of mount Terminillo, the highest mountain of the Appennines, in the center of the peninsula, one can see the Adriatic Sea on one side and the Tyrrhenian Sea on the other. It is possible on a clear day, better with the help of a telescope. The mountain is over seven thousand feet high.

The clam sauce recipe, can be white or red, if you add tomato. I am sure that it was born white. Tomatoes came after the discovery of America. This is a case like in the clam chowder. New England clam chowder is white and Manhattan clam chowder is red, with tomato. Each one predicates the superiority of the other. It’s an opinion and the preference depends mostly on where people live.

I am almost sure that in Naples the clam sauce recipe is red, with tomato. Neapolitans can hardly conceive a real pasta sauce without tomatoes.

The following recipe is with clams, real clams in their shell. You can use the canned type, but the results are not the same. It’s something like making a chicken broth with a cube or with a whole chicken with vegetables and herbs.

As a reminder, if you don’t care about tomatoes, skip them.

Ingredients for 4 portions – 1 pound spaghetti:


  • 2 pounds clams
  • 4 tomatoes San Marzano chopped
  • 5 ounces of dry white wine
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 3/4 cup chopped parsley
  • hot pepper flakes
  • salt

Put clams rinsed and dried in a deep pan or a wok with 2 garlic cloves and 2 ounces of wine. Close with a lid and cook over moderate low heat till all clams open. It should take less than 10 minutes.First using a basin, immerse clams for at least 2 hours in water with salt, so to eliminate sand and other impurities.

Save the liquid that formed in the pan and strain through a filter. Discard garlic cloves. Take clams from pan and set aside.

Dry pan and put in it the oil, 2 garlic cloves and hot pepper flakes. Let go on low heat until garlic cloves are golden, without burning. Then discard them.

Now, you can add chopped tomatoes, the clams and half of the parsley. Also add the liquid filtered saved. Raise a bit the heat, if necessary to make most of the liquid evaporate. Check if salt needed.

Finish pouring over the rest of the wine. Raise the heat, stir and let go for a few seconds. Turn heat off and stir in the rest of the parsley.

Clam sauce recipe condensed

In a large pan, on low heat, put oil, 2 garlic cloves chopped, some parsley, and hot pepper flakes. Add clams and cover pan. After about 10 minutes clam should open. Remove lid and pour 4 ounces wine. Raise heat a bit and let wine evaporate 2-3 minutes. At this time you could add tomatoes and cook for another 5 minutes.

At very low heat, toss pasta cooked and drained into pan with clams. Add the rest of the parsley mixing well to flavor about 1 minute. Serve at once.

Note: some say that leaving the clams in the shells with the pasta, the better the sea flavor comes out. Never, never use cheese in the clam sauce recipe and for that matter in any fish sauces with pasta. Cheese will overwhelm and kill the more delicate flavor of the fish. That’s another reason why white wine lighter and more delicate than red, is the recommended choice for fish.

More sauces for pasta

Spaghetti recipes

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