Linguine with Clams

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When you’re an old fogey food blogger like me, dinner comes in one of two categories: 1. something you’ve already blogged about and 2. something you’ve never blogged about.

The sad truth is that more often than not, lately, I feel like cooking things that I’ve already blogged about because I love making them. It’s harder and harder to come up with something that I really feel like making that’s new enough for the blog. How to overcome that? The best way is to go to the farmer’s market to find a new ingredient or to wander into a great meat and seafood store, like McCall’s in Los Feliz, to get inspired. I did the latter yesterday when I found beautiful looking clams for $8 a pound. One dish popped into my head that I’d never blogged before: Linguine with Clams. I bought a pound of clams, a box of linguine and got ready to rock n’ roll.

First things first, I soaked the clams in cold water with a spoonful of flour to draw out the sand.

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If there’s one eating experience I absolutely despise, it’s biting into a piece of sand while eating clam sauce. Just the thought makes all the hairs stand up on the back of my neck (not that I have a hairy neck, but you get the idea). After 30 minutes or so, you’ll see a bunch of sand on the bottom of the bowl. Lift out the clams, pour out the sand, then rinse and scrub the clams carefully under cold water. You want them very clean and sandless.

To make this dinner, I read many recipes online. Two stood out: Mario Batali’s and Anne Burrell’s.

With Batali’s, you slice garlic and cook it in oil with red chile flakes then add clams, wine, and canned tomatoes. Burrell skips the tomatoes, uses whole garlic that you remove, has you steam open the clams, remove them and finish the sauce with butter and more steamed clams. I decided to use the best parts from each recipe.

It’s really a shockingly easy dinner. Bring a big pot of water to a boil. In a large skillet, add a good glug of olive oil and 4 to 5 cloves of thinly sliced garlic.

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Turn up the heat and as the garlic grows fragrant, sprinkle in red chile flakes. Then add all your clams and a glass of dry white wine.

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Cover the pan, and with the heat on high, all the clams should open up within 2 minutes. Look how pretty.

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At this point, remove all the clams to a bowl and return the pan with all the liquid to the stove top.

Now it’s all about timing. Drop your linguine in the salted, boiling water (actually you could’ve done this before you cooked the clams; in fact you should) and cook 1 minute less than package instructions.

When it’s just about there, turn the heat up on the clam/wine liquid and begin reducing it. Then add a pat of butter (about 1 1/2 tablespoons).

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When the linguine is very al dente, lift it with tongs into the silky clam sauce.

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Turn the heat up to high and twirl the linguine with the tongs, allowing it to soak up all that liquid. If the pan dries up too fast, add a ladleful of pasta cooking water and continue cooking until the linguine is perfectly cooked and tastes terrific. Then add tons of chopped parsley.

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To serve, twirl that on to plates and place the clams all around the perimeter.

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You guys this was such a good dinner. Seriously one of the best dinners I’ve made in a long time. And it’s so adjustable: buy as many clams as you want to eat, cook as much linguine as you feel like serving (I only used half a pound for myself which is probably why the sauce was so potent for me) and up the garlic and wine and butter accordingly.

This post started with me complaining about having to cook new things all the time for the blog but now that I think about it if I didn’t have to cook something new for the blog, I probably wouldn’t have made this amazing dinner last night. So thank you for giving me a reason to eat this. Now if only I could make it again, but you’ll be demanding a new recipe and I’ll just have to live knowing you’re eating this and loving it as much as I did.

Recipe: Linguine with Clams

Summary: My take on the classic recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 to 5 thinly sliced cloves of garlic
  • A pinch of red chile flakes
  • 1 pound of high quality clams from the best seafood store you know
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 pound linguine
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley

Instructions

  1. Bring a large wide pot of water to a boil. Salt it aggressively. Drop in the linguine and move around with tongs.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, add the olive oil and the garlic and raise the heat. When the garlic starts to sizzle, add red chile flakes to taste (if you like it spicy add a few pinches). Just as the garlic starts to color, add all of the clams (it should sizzle loudly), the wine and and 1/2 cup of water. Cover the pan, keep the heat on high and cook 1 to 2 minutes until all of the clams open. Lift the opened clams into a large bowl and set aside.
  3. At this point, the linguine should be almost done. Raise the heat on the pan with the clam liquid and allow to reduce; add the butter and stir to make a silky sauce. Lift the linguine, which should be very al dente, with tongs into the sauce, raise the heat to high and cook, stirring all around, adding some pasta cooking liquid if the pan dries up too quickly. When the pasta is thoroughly cooked and coated add all the parsley and stir around off the heat.
  4. To plate, twirl the linguine on to plates and surround with the clams. You can drizzle with more olive oil and sprinkle with red chile flakes if you’d like, though you probably won’t be able to resist digging in right away. Serve with a chilled rosé.

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: 15 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 2

My rating 5 stars:  ★★★★★ 1 review(s)

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24 comments

  1. One of my all time favorites! I keep whole frozen clams from the Asian grocery store and a bottle of clam juice on hand so I can make it whenever the mood strikes.

  2. This recipe works with mussels as well. However, rather than de-sanding them, you need to de-beard them.

  3. I know about soaking in water…what does the flour do?? Remind me to pull out any that didn’t open in the steam!

  4. I love this dish. Very nice and comprehensive presentation, with good photos.

    I cook this dish since many years, especially when living in the Provence from 2002 to 2004, near Avignon. There is about no better place to get all the fresh ingredients you want, and when you open the window, the wonderful scent of the pine trees parfumes the air.

  5. Hey Adam, this looks yummy! For the folks who just look at the recipe when it’s time to cook and may not remember the step in the article about cleaning the clams, it might be a good idea to add it to the recipe.

  6. I never tried this dish because I wasn’t knowledgeable about how to clean the clams. Thank you! I will give it a try.

  7. If I had to request a last meal, linguine with clam sauce and lots of garlic would be it.

  8. have not made this in ages, thanks for the reminder! This former New Englander cleans her clams with corn meal, not flour. What interesting looking west coast clams!

  9. Let me start by saying that I am of Italian heritage ( so I will not get shot)… I love linguini with clam sauce ( without tomato). But being the philistine that I am….here goes… I like …cheese on it! Finely grated Romano. There I said it . whew!
    I saw Batali make this son TV, and he nodded to the fact that in Italy, you DO NOT put cheese on fish. Then he threw a handful of cheese on the plate as he exclaimed, “But we aren’t in Italy”! So, I will continue to make it and enjoy it the way my Italian ( Bolognese as a matter of fact) mother made it while we were growing up…..finished with grated cheese!

  10. I do use freshly and finely shredded cheese on my sauteed shrimp w/ angel hair pasta…out of this world. I don’t use it on my linguini and clams though.

  11. Thanks for the great recipe! It was our first time making clams in the shell and we loved it. Will definitely make it again!

  12. Am enjoying the recipe as I write. It was quick and easy. I have cooked clams many times for chowder and linguine, but this is sooo tasty I am keeping it.
    Thanks

  13. That’s why Batali is rich, he’s just a mediocre cook (not a chef) but he is a good salesman.

  14. That’s why Batali is rich, he’s just a mediocre cook (not a chef) but he is a good salesman.

  15. I made this dish yesterday 8/16/14 using 50 little neck clams and 2 boxes of linguine. Added diced green & red peppers, juice from half of a lemon, can of minced clams, more of everything that the recipe called for. Before putting the clams on, I seasoned the pasta with salt, garlic powder, parsley and black pepper to taste, then put the clams on and added more parsley. Got rave reviews at the party.

  16. Suggestion One: Add a good teaspoon of Poultry Seasoning to the mix (Thyme and Basil is the base).
    Suggestion Two: Jump the “crushed” garlic cloves to at least 7-9.
    Suggestion Three: Add other things, such as thin scallion slices. Other Seafood such as small shrimp (always use wild caught).
    Suggestion Four: Mix it up…..use your imagination.

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