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closeup of a white pasta bowl filled with spaghetti and clams

Italian Spaghetti alle Vongole (Spaghetti w/Clams)

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  • Author: Kelly
  • Total Time: 1 hour 18 minutes
  • Yield: 2 to 3 servings depending on the hunger level 1x
  • Diet: Low Calorie


This is your one-stop-shop for spaghetti with clams in a velvety noodle-saturating sea sauce. This pasta is a top 3 all-time favorite in our house and with that love, comes the great responsibility to do this dish right. This recipe is a traditional Italian Spaghetti alle Vongole made the way it was intended — simply and deliciously using the highest quality ingredients available. It’s quick and always delicious making it perfect for family dinners, date nights, or dinner parties.


Units Scale
  • 7 ounces spaghetti or linguine (200g)
  • 2 pounds Veraci clams (or other variety of small clams) (1 kg)
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (50g)
  • up to 2 ounces dry white wine (optional) (50g)
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed
  • 1 chili pepper, dried (or a pinch of red pepper flakes)
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon parsley, finely chopped


  1. Clean & soak the clams. Rinse clams under cold running water, add them to a large bowl, add 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour to the bowl, a couple of ice cubes, and cover with water. Stir the mixture with your hand to dissolve the flour. Allow the clams to soak for 1 hour to release any sand and grit they’re holding inside. Drain and rinse the clams thoroughly several times, giving them a slight bang on the side of the sink to further help rid them of any released sand. Once they’re clean pick over them and discard any cracked or opened clams. Set aside.
  2. Blister the garlic. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and garlic in a sauté pan over medium-high heat and cook the garlic until it’s blistered or golden brown, but not dark in color.
  3. Boil the water for the pasta. Bring a large pot of very lightly salted water to boil.
  4. Cook the clams and build the sauce. Increase the heat to high, add the clams, white wine, and chili pepper to the pot, and cover with a tightfitting lid. Remove the lid approximately every 30 seconds to 1 minute to check for clams that have fully cooked and opened up. Quickly remove any open clams to a separate bowl to prevent over-cooking them and immediately place the lid back on top of the clams to allow the remaining clams to finish cooking. With the lid on, shake the pan periodically to allow room for all of the clams to have contact with the hot pan and open up. Repeat these steps until all clams have opened leaving only the sauce remaining in the pan. Discard any clams which do not open. Remove the garlic clove from the sauce and turn off the heat while the pasta finishes cooking. Check for seasoning and also for the amount of liquid that the clams released. Add up to 1 tablespoon of additional olive oil to the sauce if desired.
  5. Cook the pasta. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. When the pasta is 2 minutes from ‘al dente” doneness, strain the pasta reserving approximately 1/2 cup of the starchy cooking water.
  6. Finish cooking the pasta noodles directly in the clam sauce. Heat the clam sauce on high heat and add the spaghetti noodles directly to the sauce, stirring everything together with a pair of tongs. Add about 1/4 cup of pasta water and cook the spaghetti noodles in this mixture for 2 minutes until the noodles are done, adjust seasonings. The sauce should be very creamy and velvety at this point. Add the clams back to the sauce, stir to combine, sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately and, Enjoy!


  • Clams cooking time varies depending on what cooking vessel you use, but typically takes anywhere from 5-8 minutes total for them all to open up.
  • The easiest way to avoid overcooking the clams (which make them tough and chewy) is to remove them one by one to a separate bowl as they open. This is especially helpful for people who may be new to cooking this dish and are concerned about timing everything perfectly.  Not only does this technique keep you from overcooking the clams, but it allows you to have more control over the timing of the dish. Since the spaghetti is cooked for the last two minutes directly in the clam sauce, it’s important to ensure all of the clams are placed in a separate container which makes cooking the noodles in the sauce easier and more effective. If you left the clamshells in the sauce and then added the spaghetti to finish cooking them, it would make it really hard for the noodles to finish cooking properly.
  • If the clam sauce is too salty before you add the spaghetti, be sure to add a bit more of the very lightly salted pasta cooking water to the clam sauce.  This will not only help reduce the natural saltiness which comes from the clam liquor, but it will also help the sauce bind better to the noodles because of the additional starch in this cooking water.
  • Do not over-salt this pasta cooking water or you may end up with pasta that’s too salty.  Traditionally, I use a lot less salt for the pasta cooking water in this clam-centric pasta dish. Because the addition of the pasta cooking water is vital to the success of the final sauce (and authenticity of the dish), I want to make sure that I avoid adding overly salted pasta water to an already salty clam sauce. Less is more here and allows you to be able to have a higher success rate with the final dish because you can always add more salt, but you can never take it away!
  • If you’re really hungry, you can get away with using an additional 25-50 more grams of pasta in this recipe.
  • How much olive oil is enough? I personally like to use a little less than 4 tablespoons of EVOO (50g) for every 2 pounds (1kg) of clams that I use, but if you’re trying to cut down on calories, feel free to use less.

How to Properly Soak Clams to Get Them to Release Maximum Amount of Sand & Grit

The salty ocean flavor of this pasta depends mostly on the clams’ great-tasting “clam liquor” (the juices inside the shell). But along with this delicious liquid comes sand and grit that needs to be removed so you don’t end up eating it. The solution is soaking the clams. Clams should soak before being cooked which helps them expel as much of the grit as possible. During the soaking period, they’ll purge most of the residual grit they have inside. Here are a couple of ways to ensure you end up with grit-free spaghetti and clams every time.

  • The Italian way. Soak clams for an hour in seawater (or salted water) and bang the clams on the side of the sink when rinsing them.
  • My way + the Italian way.  Soak clams for an hour in a mixture of flour and sea-salted water. It’s a great trick to get clams (and mussels) to release the most sand. Bang them gently on the side of the sink when rinsing them. And lastly, after doing all of this, if you still see sandy bits in your cooked clam liquid, use a sieve (fine mesh strainer) or cheesecloth to strain the sauce before reducing it a bit and adding it to the spaghetti.
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Soak Time: 1 hour
  • Cook Time: 8 minutes
  • Category: Pasta
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian


  • Serving Size: 1/2 recipe
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