Weeknight Spaghetti with Clams

Cast iron skillet with spaghetti and clambs

Apparently all this sheltering at home has everyone stockpiling canned seafood, at least that’s my guess given the uptick in Google-driven traffic to recipes that call for canned tuna, salmon, and clams. My Weeknight Spaghetti and Clams, for example, has suddenly become one of the more popular recipes on the site, though it’s been a family favorite for years. I thought I’d re-share it here, just in case you’re stockpiling canned seafood, too. It’s easy to make and budget-friendly. Plus, clams are nutritious and one of the more sustainable options under the sea. Below is the original post:

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, ate, 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 skillfully prepared sustainable seafood. I picked up a pound of clams on our way out for our dinner that night.

Classic Spaghetti and Clams

Tinkering in the kitchen without the chaos of kids felt downright decadent. Eating dinner for two at nine p.m. seemed like we were really going off the rails. I sautéed 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.

Cast iron skillet with spaghetti and clams

Spaghetti and Clams from the Can

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 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 a handful of ingredients and minimal prep, it can be knocked out in the time it takes to cook the pasta. Weeknight Spaghetti and Clams, indeed.

Clams: Nutritious and Sustainable

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. That’s in part because they act like little filters that effectively improve the environment of the waterways in which they live.  

They are also good for you: high in protein, iron and zinc, off the charts in selenium, and low in fat. And though I don’t have quite the heavy hand with butter that my grandfather had, the recipe calls for just enough to add richness and to coax the flavor from the garlic. 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 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.

How to Make Simple Spaghetti and Clams

The method for making this satisfying and budget-friendly dish is easy. Ingredients for spaghetti and clams

  1. Gather your ingredients, which aren’t many: canned clams, garlic, butter, olive oil, parsley, and lemon.

Sauteeing garlic

2. Start by sautéing garlic in butter and olive oil. Don’t cook it at too high a heat, since you don’t want the garlic to brown.Sauteeing clams

3. Add canned, chopped clams and continue to sauté until they absorb the flavors in the pan.

Spaghetti and clams

4. Add cooked spaghetti, along with a little juice from the canned clams, parsley, lemon juice and zest, and salt and pepper. Toss until all the flavors coat the pasta. Serve piping hot.

Be sure to check out these other simple pasta recipes:

Spaghetti with Butter, Egg, and Cheese

Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce and Garlic Basil Oil

Pasta with Pistachio Pesto and Chicken

Easy Weeknight Bolognese from Smart in the Kitchen

Gluten-Free Roasted Meyer Lemon and Brown Butter Pasta from This Mess is Ours

Spaghetti and clams
4.8 from 5 votes

Weeknight Spaghetti and Clams

Using canned clams and just a handful of other ingredients, this dish comes together with ease. If you like a kick of heat, add a big pinch of red pepper flakes when you add the clams. 

Course Dinner
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 8 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 4 to 5 servings
Calories 454 kcal
Author katiemorford


  • 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
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Zest of 1/2 lemon plus 2 teaspoons juice


  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, heat the olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the butter melts, drop the heat to medium-low and add the garlic. Saute the garlic until it softens and releases its aroma, about 2 minutes. 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 1/2 cup of the clam juice. Set aside. Once the garlic is tender and aromatic, add the clams to the pan and sauté until they soak up the flavors, about 2 minutes.

  4. When the pasta is cooked and drained, add it to the skillet along with the 1/2 cup clam juice, parsley, lemon zest, lemon, salt, and a light shower of black pepper. 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. Serve immediately.




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!!


12.21.2011 at 4:23 PM #


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

01.09.2012 at 9:16 PM #


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 #


Awww…thatmade my day!

01.18.2012 at 3:42 PM #


Do you think whole wheat pasta would work?

01.18.2012 at 3:42 PM #


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

10.06.2014 at 8:24 AM #


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 #


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 #


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 #


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 #


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 #


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 #


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

08.16.2017 at 8:41 AM #


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

08.16.2017 at 8:43 AM #


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

08.16.2017 at 8:43 AM #


I bet. That sounds delicious. Thanks for sharing.

01.05.2018 at 2:40 PM #


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 #


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 #


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 #


Thank you! I love recommendations like this.

07.09.2019 at 2:49 PM #


Love your recipes

07.09.2019 at 2:49 PM #


Thank you!

10.03.2019 at 5:05 PM #

Marti Rosner

I used spaghetti squash and it worked beautifully.

10.03.2019 at 5:05 PM #


Terrific…and so healthy!

03.21.2020 at 6:39 PM #

Linda Moulton

I was angry with my husband for buying 6 cans of minced clams. Then I made your recipe. My husband said, “It’s a keeper.” We really enjoyed our meal. It was delicious.

03.21.2020 at 6:39 PM #


That literally makes my day! Thanks for sharing.

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