Clam Pasta – Sprinkles and Sprouts

This Clam Pasta is seriously delicious and so easy to make. It’s a dish that transports you straight to the Italian coast with every bite.

The beauty of this recipe is that it only requires a handful of ingredients, and you can have it on the table in under 30 minutes. It makes a great weeknight dinner if you are pushed for time, but it is perfect for date night or cooking for friends.  

The key to making an excellent clam pasta is using fresh clams and good-quality pasta. Both of which you can get larger grocery stores these days. So, if you’re looking for a simple and delicious restaurant-quality dinner, give this clam pasta a try.

a bowl of clam pasta with a fork in it on a linen napkin

Ingredient Notes 

These notes are here to help make this recipe a success; they cover some but not all ingredients. For a complete ingredient list, check out the recipe card below.

Clams: You can buy fresh clams in larger grocery stores; they will come in a mesh bag as they are still alive. Most grocery stores sell farm-raised clams, which are usually quite clean, but I like to purge them to be sure, as a gritty clam can ruin the whole dish. See below for details on how to purge the clams.
Shallots: These add a sweet flavor to the sauce, but you can substitute with half an onion.
Garlic: The recipe uses five cloves of garlic. Measure garlic with your heart and use more or less as you prefer.
Red pepper flakes: These are called chilli flakes in some parts of the world. It adds a background warmth, but feel free to leave them out.
White wine: Use a dry white wine for this recipe. My choice would be a Soave, Vermentino, or Pinot Grigio. Choose something that you would drink rather than a poor-quality cooking wine.
Clam juice/fish stock: You can buy bottled clam juice in the tinned fish aisle of the grocery store. If it isn’t available, use a good quality fish stock instead. 
Lemon: Buy a fresh lemon, as the recipe uses zest and juice. 

How to prepare clams for pasta

To prepare your fresh clams for the Clam Pasta:

  1. Start by checking that all of the shells are tightly closed.
  2. Give any open clams a gentle tap on the countertop and see if they close their shells.
  3. Discard any clams that don’t close their shells or have cracked or chipped shells. 
  4. Next, dissolve salt in cold water (about 1 tablespoon per 2 cups) and place the clams in the bowl. Let them sit for 30 minutes, during which they will expel any sand or grit from inside their shells. If you find a lot of sand at the bottom of the bowl, you can repeat the process with a new batch of salty water. 
  5. Once the clams have been purged, let them soak in a bowl of cold, unsalted water to remove excess salt. 

It’s worth noting that most grocery stores sell farm-raised clams, which are already quite clean, so you may not find much grit or sand, but it is still worth purging as a gritty, sandy clam will ruin the whole meal.

a stone table with a bowl of pasta with claims mixed through it

Recipe Tips

We’ve tested this recipe at least 3 times to ensure it works well for you. Have a look at our tips for getting the best dish you can!

  • Purge the clams: I know I keep saying it, but it ruins the whole meal if someone gets sand or grit in their clam.
  • Discard dead clams: Before you cook your clams, discard any that aren’t closed and don’t close when tapped on the countertop. Once cooked, discard any clams that haven’t opened. If after the 6 minutes you find you have a lot of unopened clams, keep cooking for a further 2-3 minutes, as very fresh clams can take longer to open.
  • Undercook the pasta: When boiling the pasta, cook it for a minute less than the packet suggests. It will finish cooking in the sauce and absorb all the flavors. 
  • Reserve the cooking water: Before draining the pasta, reserve at least a cup of the pasta cooking water. This can be used to moisten the pasta as it cooks in the sauce if it gets too dry.
  • Zest first: Zest the lemon before you cut and juice it. It is almost impossible to zest a cut and juiced lemon.

Why You’ll Love This Clam Pasta

  • It’s an elegant restaurant-quality dish that you can easily make at home.
  • It is impressive yet totally doable, even if you’re not a kitchen whiz.
  • It makes a great date night dinner.
  • It is easy to adapt.
a fork swirling up pasta from a bowl of clams and linguine with garlic, chili and parsley

Recipe Adaptions/Substitutions

These are all just suggestions and things that have worked in our test kitchen, but it is your dinner, so adapt it to suit your family. That is the beauty of cooking; we can all create our own delicious meals.

  • Use whatever clams are available, and if you can’t find any, you can easily use mussels instead.
  • Add halved cherry tomatoes when you add the pasta for a pop of color. 
  • Make it creamy with a ¼ cup of heavy cream.
  • Add some baby spinach at the end of cooking for added veg and rich flavor.
  • Add asparagus spears or a cup of baby peas for some extra greens. 

Serving Suggestions for Clam Pasta

Sides: This garlicky pasta definitely needs some crusty bread to mop up all the delicious juices. And maybe a green side salad or a side of steamed asparagus or green beans. 

Wine: This is a dish for white wine or maybe a dry rose. I have tried a few reds with it, but none of them work. But I’d be happy to hear from you if you try something that works. For whites, think dry and unoaked. The wine you added to the dish would be perfect. Soave, Vermentino or Pinot Grigio.

close up on opened clams in a bowl of pasta

Enjoy x

Other Seafood Pastas to try:

If you make this Clam Pasta, please come back and comment. You can also tag me on social media. 

Any questions about the recipe? Use the comments section below.

Get the Recipe

close up on pasta with clams in a cream bowl

Clam Pasta

Claire | Sprinkle and Sprouts

This Clam Pasta is seriously delicious and so easy to make. It’s a dish that transports you straight to the Italian coast with every bite. The beauty of this recipe is that it only requires a handful of ingredients, and you can have it on the table in under 30 minutes. It makes a great weeknight dinner if you are pushed for time, but it is perfect for date night or cooking for friends.