White Clam Sauce with Linguine

I am having a hard time remembering the last time I had this dish. I don’t know if I could call it a “dish” the way I had it previously as I’m pretty sure it was just some watery concoction, poured out of a can, into a microwavable bowl, heated a bit and then dumped carelessly over some badly cooked pasta. That’s probably why it’s been so long since I’ve had it. If I try to remember back further, like over 10 years ago, I can remember that I had it out at a restaurant and I really like it. So there must be something to this dish, something that I really enjoy so why not give homemade clam sauce a go. I imagined that it would be briny, garlicky, creamy, velvety and packed full of flavor. I imagined right.


Part of mine did come out of can this time, too. But don’t worry, just the clams. I suppose I would have used fresh clams if I had seen some appealing looking ones. It seems to be a hard thing for me to find at most of my local grocery stores. The last time I bought a bag of “fresh” clams I ended up throwing them out because at least half of them were in fact, dead. Oh seafood, why do you elude me so up here in Buffalo, NY? But anyway, canned clams are actually quite delicious and are undoubtedly much more “fresh” than a lot of the other kinds I can easily find here. Another redeeming quality of canned clams, besides convenience, is the juice/brine they are packed in which is full of flavor! In this clam sauce recipe this brine is really the base of the sauce! I add a bit of bottled clam juice to really concentrate that briny, clammy goodness as the liquid reduces (not much is needed).

I have found that it is best to add the clams themselves to the sauce once it has reduced because canned clams can get a bit rubbery if you add them too early. Also, not much added salt is used in this because the brine is full of salt. On that note, be wary of how much, if any, you add along the way in this recipe because it could get overwhelming quickly if you are too heavy handed. The only salt I added to this recipe was in the pasta water: I always salt this water to season the pasta itself but I even cut back on the amount I normally add for this as I knew the pasta would be finishing in the clam sauce itself.

I based this recipe off of one I saw on a can of clams at the store! LOL I was wandering through the grocery aisles trying to decide what to have for dinner, just looking for something to inspire me, when I saw this can of clams! I took a LOT of liberties with this so it’s really not the same recipe at all anymore but I will credit it for inspiring me, and for causing me to have a pantry well-stocked with clam juice because for some reason this recipe calls for 24 ounces of clam juice plus the liquid from the canned clams! I found that I only needed to supplement my sauce with 4 ounces of clam juice other than the reserved liquid from the cans. Even if I doubled the amount of pasta I made, this still would have made a way-too-watery sauce. But to each their own I suppose!



White Clam Sauce with Linguine

*This can be made into a “red” clam sauce by adding in a couple of cups of crushed tomatoes after the sauce reduces and before the clams are added*


  • 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • 3 6.5 ounce cans of minced and/or chopped clams (I like to use 2 cans of chopped and 1 can of minced for a nice texture)
  • 4 oz. of bottled clam juice (half a typical bottle)
  • 1 tsp. dried parsley
  • ½ tsp. dried basil
  • ½ tsp. ground black pepper
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper, to taste
  • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • Kosher salt
  • ½ lb. linguine
  • Fresh parsley for garnish, optional


  • Heat olive oil and garlic in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat until garlic is just sizzling, about 2 minutes
  • Add in chopped onion and cook until translucent, about 3-5 minutes
  • Drain the clams, reserving the juice
  • Add the white wine to the sauté pan
  • Add the reserved clam juice and the 4 oz. bottled clam juice to the sauté pan
  • Season with parsley, basil, black pepper and crushed red pepper
  • Stir until the mixture comes to a boil and reduce heat to medium
  • Simmer the mixture for about 15 minutes or until the sauce has incorporated and thickened a bit
  • Cook the linguine while the sauce simmers in salted water. Remove pasta from water, reserving about 1 cup of the pasta water. Stop cooking the pasta just before it is al dente (it will finish cooking in the sauce)
  • Check the sauce for seasoning and adjust accordingly
  • Add the clams to the sauce and cook until warmed through
  • Add the butter to the sauce and stir until melted


  • Reduce heat to low and add the cooked pasta to the sauce
  • Mix thoroughly to coat and allow to cook in the sauce for a few minutes
  • Add the pasta water as needed to thin the sauce. It will make the pasta creamier due to the starch content so even if your sauce appears to be fine, go ahead and add a half cup and stir to combine. Add the rest as needed
  • To serve, garnish with fresh parsley

7 responses to “White Clam Sauce with Linguine

  1. Pasta Vongole! Family favorite! Make this all the time, yes with canned clams! My kids would probably revolt if I serve it with fresh clams. There’s no shame in canned clams. Like you said probably tastes better than some of the claimed “fresh” clams. 🙂

    • I love canned clams! When I first cooked with them my boyfriend and I kinddof looked at them like eeew, and then we ate them and quickly changed our tune! I love using them for clam chowder as well! I’m sure that will end up on here eventually!

      • I intend to try it. Was up all night kicking the heck out of the d***** computer. Think I’d rather throw it out the window. Now the TV’s acting up, but I don’t watch it that much so that doesn’t bother me.r

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