Spaghetti alle Vongole: Clam Pasta
If you want to do it the Italian way, where seafood is served on Christmas Eve dinner, then spaghetti alle vongole is the way to go!
Clam pasta is a traditional dish from Naples that can be prepared rossa, 'red' with tomatoes, or bianca, 'white' without tomatoes. The sauce calls for a long pasta shape as it needs to hug and embrace the clams. Spaghetti, linguine or vermicelli are the best choices.
Photo: Pina Bresciani
Recipe by Pina Bresciani
Pina Bresciani, an Italian-Canadian food blogger, shares her family recipe for spaghetti alle vongole.
Spaghetti (or linguine) with fresh clams, a small amount of tomatoes, fresh garlic, parsley, and olive oil. That’s it! The recipe is so simple. Another reason to give it a try! I usually see this dish "in bianco", meaning without the tomatoes. But my zia makes them this way, it’s kind of her signature way, but if you’d like, you can omit the tomatoes and it would turn out just fine!
How to Choose and Store Clams
Before we start with the recipe, it's important to choose the right clams and store them properly. Here are Pina's tips.
When I made this dish in Italy, I made them with small, local Italian clams, similar to striped venus clams. But if you’re making this dish in North America, just try to find the best-quality fresh clams you can find, and preferably on the smaller side. I used manila clams. Whatever you do, don’t used canned clams! The flavour just won’t be the same.
If you won’t be using your clams right away, place them in a bowl (ceramic or metal) and place a damp paper cloth on top. Then place the bowl in the fridge. They will keep up to 2 days. Do not cover them with fresh water or place them in an airtight container. This will kill them.
Serving: 2 people
2 lbs fresh clams
2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
3 tbsp olive oil
15 cherry tomatoes
2 tbsp parsley
250 grams spaghetti
salt to taste
Our tip. Shop for Italian products and ingredients online.
Pina says. Use the highest quality ingredients you can find, especially the tomatoes and clams. Since this recipe has so few ingredients, high-quality ingredients are key.
- In a pot, with about 1/2 cup of water at the bottom, add clams. Place the lid on the pot and let the clams cook on medium heat and open, about 6-10 minutes.
- In the meantime, cut the tomatoes into quarters and roughly chop the parsley.
- Once the clams are all open, reserve 1 cup of the water from the pot, and remove about half the clams from their shells. Leave the rest in their shells.
Tip from Pina. Don't forget the clam water (the water that is at the bottom of the pot once the clams have opened). This is what gives the dish a lot of its flavor.
- In a large pan, heat up the olive oil and garlic. Let them cook until garlic is fragrant.
- In the meantime, boil pasta water and cook spaghetti until al dente. The pasta should be done cooking by the time that the clam sauce is ready.
Tip from Pina. Since the pasta will cook a bit more with the sauce for a few minutes, make sure you remove the pasta when it's extra al dente.
- To the garlic, add tomatoes, half of the parsley and salt to the pan.
- Add clams (with shells and without) to the pan, as well as the reserved clam water. Let the sauce simmer so the flavors combine, about 10 minutes.
- Add the rest of the parsley to the sauce, and then add the spaghetti.
- Toss the spaghetti in the tomato/clam sauce until most of the sauce is absorbed, about 2-4 minutes.
- Plate and enjoy!
Tip from Pina. No need to season this dish with cheese - in fact, in Italy, parmesan is never an option with spaghetti alle vongole.
Spaghetti alle Vongole and Wine
Here is the Italian wine our sommelier Eric suggests to pair with this amazing clam pasta.
The most beloved Italian seafood pasta recipe, spaghetti alle vongole, wants a fresh, crispy, dry white wine. Personally, my top choice is the Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi. Why? Due to its freshness, persistence and sapidity is a perfect match for the bold briny flavor of the clams, the parsley, and the chili pepper.