This is HANDS DOWN my favorite dish. Literally, if I were on death row and I had to choose my last meal, this would definitely be it. I would want it to be this specific recipe though, because this is the ultimate recipe for spaghetti with clams! I don't actually plan on being on death row ever in my life though, so I'll just continue to make this dish in my own home, if it's all the same.
The big difference in this recipe compared to others I've read, and what earns it the "ultimate" title, is that this one uses fresh AND canned clams. In my opinion, you need both to make the most flavorful, most delicious spaghetti with clams. Canned clams come in a brine (clam juice) that adds so much flavor to the pasta and the canned clams themselves are delicious! Using both fresh and canned clams ensures that not only will your pasta be packed with flavor, but you'll have clams in every bite.
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Linguine and spaghetti are the two most traditional pasta choices for this recipe. I alternate between the two, depending on what I have on hand. You could also use bucatini or any other long pasta shape, but I don't recommend using a short pasta.
For whatever reason, I've found that some people feel scared to cook with clams. They think it's going to be some big ordeal, I guess, but that could not be further from the truth! Clams are super easy to work with and they cook really fast.
You'll be able to buy clams from wherever you buy fresh seafood in your area and you can use Littleneck or Manila for this recipe. You'll want to buy the clams the day that you're making this recipe to make sure they are as fresh as possible. I have, on occasion, bought them the day before and it's been fine but a few of them will probably die if you do that. RIP clams and RIP a few dollars.
Probably the most annoying thing about clams, which is barely annoying, is that they have some sand in them. Hey, they come from the sea! The easiest way to get all of the sand out of the clams is to soak them in cold water while you're boiling the water for the pasta, chopping garlic, pouring yourself a glass of wine, whatever. Let the clams sit in the cold water for about 10 minutes, change the water once and let them sit another 10 minutes and then, finally, run them under cold water and scrub them together to get the last bits of sand off. I like to do that last part right before I cook them.
Since this recipe cooks so fast, it's important to be on top of timing. The easiest way to make sure the timing is right is to get the clams soaking and the pasta water boiling before doing anything else. You don't need to drop the pasta right away, but the water will be ready when it's time. The clam sauce takes only about 10 minutes, so time your pasta accordingly.
Now that you're a clam cooking pro, the world is your oyster! Or clam. Whatever. I hope you love this one as much as I do!
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Ultimate Spaghetti with Clams
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter divided
- 3-4 Cloves garlic minced
- ½ Teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ¾ Cup dry white wine
- 1 ½ Pounds Littleneck or Manila clams scrubbed
- 1 6.5 ounce Can chopped clams juice reserved
- ¾ Pound dried spaghetti or linguine
- Kosher salt
- ½ Cup fresh parsley roughly chopped
- Lemon wedges for serving (optional)
- Make sure clams are scrubbed; see note above.
- Add the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter to a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until garlic is fragrant and starting to turn golden at the edges; about 1 minute. Add the wine and bring to a low boil. Add the fresh clams, cover with a lid, and cook until the clams have opened; about 5 minutes. With tongs, remove the opened clams to a bowl and discard any that did not open. Add the canned clams along with their juices to the skillet.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta to 2 minutes less than package directions for al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water and drain.
- Add the pasta to the skillet along with the remaining tablespoon of butter and half of the parsley and toss to coat. Let the pasta finish cooking in the sauce, adding splashes of pasta water as needed to loosen the sauce. Add the reserved clams back to the skillet. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Divide between bowls, garnish with the remaining fresh parsley, and serve with lemon wedges (optional).
- This dish is ideally enjoyed with a chilled glass of white wine and hopefully not on death row. Enjoy!