Spaghetti with Clams | Spaghetti con Vongole

More clams?!? I just posted hamaguri no saka mushi or Japanese sake steamed clams, and here we are yet again with another clam dish. However, I cheated on the seafood with this dish and there was one short-cut that I regret… More on this later.

Spaghetti with clams, or spaghetti con vongole, is one of my favorite Italian pasta dishes. In a former life when I dined out frequently each week, spaghetti con vongole made a regular appearance in my diet. Since I started cooking more and dining at home, I realized how much I missed one of my favorite go-to menu items. It was about time I learned how to make this dish at home.

Recently, my family got together for a special occasion and we decided to have an Italian themed potluck dinner. Each family brought a favorite Italian dish, and I decided to bring spaghetti with clams and a non-Italian strawberry cheesecake. Interestingly, we also had quite a few vegetarian Japanese dishes that my Auntie Sumiko prepared and while I always say this, but rarely get around to it, I hope to share those dishes with you too. I love how Japanese food (and rice) always makes an appearance at our dinner table regardless of the cuisine! :)

Since I’ve gotten more comfortable cooking with clams over the past year, whether it’s simply steaming them with sake or adding them in miso soup, adding them to pasta seemed like the natural next step.

During the course of my recipe research, I was conflicted by the use of canned clams versus fresh clams. I am often a huge fan of tiny bits of chopped clams mixed throughout my spaghetti con vongole, however, the dish just isn’t the same without clams in the shell garnishing the pasta. I quickly decided to use both canned and whole clams in the shell and adapted a recipe from one of my favorite Food Network stars, Giada de Laurentiis.

Without further ado, I now share with you my inaugural spaghetti con vongole.

Spaghetti with Clams

serves four

  • 1 pound dried spaghetti noodles (I mixed in whole wheat spaghetti)
  • 1 pound manila clams (in shell)
  • 2 cans (6.5 oz each) of chopped clams, including liquid
  • 1 can (10 oz) whole baby clams, drained (reserve 1/2 liquid)
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 shallots
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (I used an inexpensive sauvignon blanc)
  • 1/2 cup fresh Italian leaf parsley, rough chopped
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • Lemon zest for garnish

1.  Cook pasta until al dente; about 7 to 8 minutes. Prior to adding the pasta to the boiling water, I spray the water with cooking spray or I add a splash of olive oil. Be sure to stir the pasta as soon as it is added to the water to prevent it from sticking together. Remove pasta from water, reserve pasta water.

2. While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce. Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan and add shallots and garlic. Don’t let the garlic burn. Allow the shallots to cook until translucent and tender, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add fresh manila clams in shell with white wine, cover pan  and steam for 7 minutes or until clam shells have opened.

NOTE: I made the mistake of buying a popular brand of frozen sautéed manila clams in the shell with garlic butter sauce. I didn’t have time to go to my Asian supermarket of choice to purchase fresh clams in their shells and I attempted to use this frozen product as a shortcut for the whole clams shells you see below. The pasta tasted fantastic, but the frozen manila clams were of poor quality and by my standards were extremely gritty and many of the shells were broken creating yet another land mine of unwanted grit. I highly recommend using fresh clams in the shell in addition to the canned chopped clams and canned whole baby clams.

3. Add canned chopped clams with liquid and canned whole baby clams with just half of the can’s liquid to the pan of steamed manila clams. Whisk in butter to thicken sauce. Add just half of the chopped parsley and drained pasta to the clam sauce. Very gently toss the spaghetti to coat it with the sauce.

4. Transfer spaghetti con vongole to serving bowl. Garnish with fresh lemon zest and the remainder of the fresh chopped parsley. Enjoy!

Bebe Dada loved the flavor of the clam sauce and encouraged me to make this dish again for us (minus the gritty frozen manila clams). It was simple enough to make that I would happily cook this for us again.

I’m going to keep this post short and sweet – shocker, I know! We’ve spent a lot of our time recuperating from our colds and this week, we’re just easing back into our schedule of visiting Bachan and Jichan, mommy and me princess ballet class and swim lessons for Bebe E.


bebe mama

11 thoughts on “Spaghetti with Clams | Spaghetti con Vongole

  1. Judy, you have me drooling at 6 am! This is one of my favorite dishes, too. No wonder we’re blogger friends! On a trip to southern Italy a few years ago, I ate a plate of this at least once a day for two weeks. I couldn’t help it, every time I saw it on the menu I had to have it. And you know what? I don’t regret it one bit! :-)

    Congrats on becoming more and more comfortable with clams. It shows by this beautiful dish you made. This is actually very, very close to my own recipe. The only difference I can see is that I add more lemon juice to mine, but then again, that wouldn’t surprise you, right? :-) I also use both canned clams and fresh. I like the extra clam flavor I get from the juice and the little pieces. This looks sooo good! I know this will be on my mind now until I make it. I think this will be tomorrow night’s dinner. :-)

    • Thanks, Jean. I’m not surprised at all!

      Actually, I did squeeze a little lemon juice over the butter and wine sauce but I did forget to mention that. :)

  2. Aloha, BebeMama!

    Oooohhhhh!!!! Yummy! Funny, my mom has made this dish, but never had a name for it. Just new there were clams and pasta! LOL My mom’s is Japanese style, so I think she uses konbucha for flavoring. Quite tasty!! Anything pasta is good to me!!

    2 days and I’ll be in Maui! Woohoo!!!

    • Ah, konbucha! Interesting. I just bought a base made from sardines. Tried it for a dish but couldn’t tell the difference from katsuo. Probably didn’t allow it to cook long enough.

      Sooo jealous about your trip! We only spent 4 days there but it was plenty of time to relax & gold. We might be in your neck of the woods later this year!!! I’ll keep you posted. :)

  3. Hi Judy, we are STILL in sync — we just had this dish over the weekend while visiting my in-laws. I usually am not a big fan of clams, but cooked this way was so amazing (alas, I did not cook it — I’ve never attempted clams! It was at a lovely restaurant in Shelter Island). Yours looks beautiful and tasty as well. Perhaps some day I will be brave enough to try cooking it myself. :)

    • Hi Melissa, I am not surprised that we’re still in synch!! That’s so funny. :) Sounds like you enjoyed a lovely weekend. I’ve always felt the same way about clams… intimidated to cook with them. But once you try it you’ll find how simple it is. :)

  4. mmm this was a DELICIOUS pasta!! i loved it… it’s so simple too! the last bit of lemon zest and chopped parsley definitely added a great touch :) and hey, no bad seafood smell afterwards either, right? more please!

    • Thanks, buddy! I’m glad you guys liked it despite the grittiness of the clams! Yes, this one is definitely a keeper because there’s NO smelly seafood after-stench. LOL. :) See ya again soon!

  5. Gorgeous clam dish, and love all the garlic too :) Glad you are both recovering and have fun with the swim lessons :)

  6. Pingback: Purple Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Clams and White Wine « Lemons and Anchovies

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