Weeknight Spaghetti with Clams

Spaghetti and Clams made with canned clams

A few weeks ago Mr. Mom’s Kitchen and I took off for a much-needed overnight away from the kids. We did some nutty stuff, like — slept, read, took a walk, took a run, ate, snuggled, watched a movie — all blissfully uninterrupted. On route to the getaway, we stopped in Sausalito, just North of San Francisco, for an al fresco lunch at Fish, a restaurant known for its skillfully prepared sustainable seafood. I picked up a pound of clams on our way out for our dinner that night.

Tinkering in the kitchen without the swirl of kids felt downright decadent. Eating dinner for two at nine p.m. seemed like we were really going off the rails. I sauteed up those pretty little clams, still in their shells, in garlic, wine and a scattering of parsley, and served them over linguine. It was tasty and satisfying, but strangely, didn’t seem to measure up to the old-school version I grew up on using canned clams.

Spaghetti and clams was a dinner staple in my house. No doubt, it was the first pasta I ever ate. Nobody did it better than my grandfather, Bapa, who was never shy with the butter or garlic. I was curious if the canned clam recipe could really be as good as I remembered it, indeed, superior to one made with fresh clams. So last week I cooked up spaghetti with clams for family dinner.

It didn’t disappoint. And with only five ingredients and minimal prep, it can be knocked out in the time it takes to cook the pasta. Weeknight Spaghetti and Clams, indeed. The dish also measures up in terms of sustainability and nutrition. Clams rank in the “best choice” and “good alternatives” category according to Seafood Watch They are high in protein, iron and zinc, off the charts in selenium, and low in fat. I’m less generous with the butter and oil than Bapa, using enough to add richness and to coax the flavor from the garlic and relying on a splash of clam juice to coat the pasta Cooking the pasta al dente is key, both for taste and nutrition, something you can read about here.

My crew gobbled down the Spaghetti and Clams with great enthusiasm. I, of course, lapped up every briny, garlicky, savory bite. Mr. Mom’s Kitchen missed out completely; he was on the road for work. Perhaps I’ll save it up to make on our next overnight getaway.

spaghetti clams
5 from 3 votes
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Old School Spaghetti and Clams

With just five ingredients and minimal prep, this supper can be knocked out in the time it takes to cook the pasta.
Course Dinner
Cuisine Italian
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 4 to 5 servings
Author katiemorford

Ingredients

  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • Four 6.5 ounce cans chopped clams in clam juice
  • ¼ cup finely chopped parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Pinch or 2 crushed red pepper (optional)

Instructions

  1. Get a big pot of generously salted water going on the stove to cook your pasta. When the water boils, cook the spaghetti until al dente.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, pour the olive oil and butter into a large skillet over medium heat. Once the butter melts, drop the heat to medium-low and add the garlic. Saute the garlic for a minute or two until it softens a bit and releases its aroma. Do your best to avoid browning the garlic, since that will make it bitter.

  3. While your garlic is cooking, open the cans of clams and drain off all but 1/3 cup of the clam juice. Set that aside. Once the garlic is tender and aromatic, add the clams to the pan and sauté for a minute or two.

  4. When the pasta is cooked and drained, add it to the skillet with the clams, along with the 1/3 cup of clam juice and the chopped parsley. Cook it for a final 2 minutes or so, coating the pasta with the sauce. I like to use tongs to turn the pasta in the pan.
  5. Taste and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add crushed red pepper for a little kick of heat, if desired.
  6. Serve immediately.

 

Comments

12.21.2011 at 4:23 PM #

Firouzeh Foroutan

Katie, I made this last night, and it was delicious!! There was literally not even one single noodle left!

Thank you!!

Firouzeh

12.21.2011 at 4:23 PM #

katiemorford

Ohhh…good to hear. Glad it went over well.

01.09.2012 at 9:16 PM #

Sabrina

I’ve made this three times ever since you’ve put up the post. Mmmm, so satisfying! Thanks!

01.09.2012 at 9:16 PM #

katiemorford

Awww…thatmade my day!

01.18.2012 at 3:42 PM #

Meggin

Do you think whole wheat pasta would work?

01.18.2012 at 3:42 PM #

katiemorford

Yes…I think whole grain pasta would do well here.

10.06.2014 at 8:24 AM #

Jen

Can you recommend a good brand and variety of canned clams. I’m not sure where to start! Thank you! 🙂 I agree–I tried fresh clams for this recipe last night, and it’s just not the same as with meaty, canned clams. I want to find a good tender variety. Commercial buyers can find them, so I know they exist!

01.31.2016 at 4:43 AM #

Procuro Explicador

Have you ever considered writing an e-book or guest authoring on other sites?
I have a blog centered on the same subjects you discuss and would love to have you share
some stories/information. I know my readers would enjoy your work.
If you are even remotely interested, feel free to shoot me an e mail.

06.20.2016 at 9:53 AM #

debbie pennepacker

i use linguini instead of the spaghetti. i love this recipe and make it for myself.

06.20.2016 at 9:53 AM #

katiemorford

Hi Debbie, yes to linguini. I suppose that is the more traditional pasta, anyway. Glad you like it!

12.03.2016 at 2:14 PM #

Joyus

I added one shallot chopped and friedvit with the garlic. Added few dried chilli seeds as we like bite. Was delicious using just one small jar of clams and their juice. Thanks!

12.03.2016 at 2:14 PM #

katiemorford

I like your swaps! Yes to a pinch of chili in there. Thanks for sharing.

12.28.2016 at 10:35 PM #

Barb Rathbun

This is straight out of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, an “old school” publication from the 1940s or 1950’s. A friend made this delicious meal and brought it for my family when I came home from the hospital. Bringing a meal to friends is also a lost “old school”concept.

03.26.2017 at 5:38 AM #

Jo

Thank you for a simple and great recipe. I couldn’t stop eating it! Absolutely delicious and I used whole wheat pasta and it was perfect.

03.26.2017 at 5:38 AM #

katiemorford

Awesome. I haven’t made this in a while. I think I need to put it back in rotation!

05.07.2017 at 3:09 PM #

Jen Ross

I’ll be making this for the second time tonight. So quick, easy & tasty. My 5 year old daughter ate 2 helpings the first time I made it. Thanks for a simple, great recipe.

05.07.2017 at 3:09 PM #

katiemorford

Awesome to hear. Glad to know your little one loved it too!

08.16.2017 at 8:41 AM #

Carol

Add some crumbled bacon!! Bacon puts it over the top!🙌

08.16.2017 at 8:43 AM #

Carol

Add some crumbled bacon! Bacon puts it over the top!🙌

08.16.2017 at 8:43 AM #

katiemorford

I bet. That sounds delicious. Thanks for sharing.

01.05.2018 at 2:40 PM #

peter

my father is Maltese he used to make this for me and my family all the time so good I started myself well not yet lol today will be the first time hope it goes well cheers all love your posts

11.30.2018 at 3:35 AM #

Laura Holtman

Simple, economical and oh so good. Also like the fact that the recipe doesn’t call for wine like many others do.

03.28.2019 at 1:34 PM #

Annie

I had this the other night at a friends and she added onion in with garlic and clams. What do u think?

03.28.2019 at 1:34 PM #

katiemorford

I think that could good. I would just make sure to cook the onion until really nice and tender.

07.06.2019 at 9:19 AM #

kathleen Timmons

La Monica canned clams are the very best. Canned in Millville NJ. So I don’t believe they are available everywhere. I send them to Colorado as Christmas gifts to my sisters. They are pink, tender and melt in your mouth.

07.06.2019 at 9:19 AM #

katiemorford

Thank you! I love recommendations like this.

07.09.2019 at 2:49 PM #

Pat

Love your recipes

07.09.2019 at 2:49 PM #

katiemorford

Thank you!

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