Linguine With Clams (Linguine alle Vongole)

Linguine with Clams, known as Linguine alle Vongole in Italian, is a classic dish that captures the essence of coastal Mediterranean cuisine. This recipe beautifully combines the briny freshness of littleneck clams with the robust flavors of garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, and white wine.

The linguine is cooked just shy of al dente in salted boiling water, finishing its cooking process immersed in the flavorful clam sauce.

Finished with butter, fresh lemon juice, and parsley, this dish offers a delightful balance of savory and citrusy notes, perfect for a satisfying meal any time of year. Serve with crusty bread to soak up the delicious broth and enjoy the flavors of the sea in each bite.

Linguine With Clams (Linguine alle Vongole)


3 to 4 pounds littleneck clams , cleaned

1 pound linguine

¼ cup olive oil , plus additional for serving

5 to 8 cloves garlic , chopped (quantity depending on how garlicky you like the dish)

¼ to ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (more or less, to taste)

1 cup dry white wine (choose a bottle you’d drink)

¼ cup fresh lemon juice (increase or decrease, to taste)**

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

⅓ cup chopped fresh parsley , plus 2 tablespoons for garnish

kosher salt


Sort and clean clams following the instructions in my Fresh Clams Guide.

Cook linguine in a large pot of salted boiling water until it’s about a minute shy of al dente, about 8 minutes (pasta will finish cooking in the clam sauce and should have a little firmness to it).

While the pasta is cooking, heat ¼ cup of olive oil in a deep skillet, sauté pan, or braiser (12-14 inches wide). Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until garlic is lightly-browned and fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.

Add white wine, lemon juice, and clams, cover pan, and steam over medium-high heat until clamshells have opened, about 5-8 minutes.

Gently shake the pan occasionally. I like to start checking the clams at the early end of the range, transferring them from the pan one at a time to a holding bowl as they cook. For tender clams, it’s important not to overcook. Tent the bowl of cooked clams with foil.

(A few clams might need a little extra time. Discard any clams that don’t open after 10-13 minutes.)

Reserve ½ to 1 cup of pasta water before draining the linguine. When all of the clams are cooked and removed from the pan, whisk 3 tablespoons of butter into the simmering steaming liquid.

Add the drained linguine to the pan, tossing to coat. Cook for about 2 minutes, until linguine is al dente. The sauce should be brothy, but will lightly cling to the noodles. If the linguine looks dry at any point, stir in some of the reserved pasta water, as needed.

Stir the chopped parsley into the pasta. Season to taste with salt*, additional red pepper flakes, and lemon juice**, if needed.

At this point, you can either remove the clams from their shells and stir the meat into the pasta, or serve the pasta tossed or topped with the whole clams for guests to de-shell in their bowls. We like to remove the meat from about half of the clams and leave half whole.

Garnish the dish with a drizzle of fruity olive oil, fresh lemon wedges, and the remaining parsely.

Serve immediately with crusty bread for dipping.


Choosing Clams: Opt for fresh littleneck clams and ensure they are cleaned thoroughly before cooking to remove any sand or grit. This ensures a clean and enjoyable eating experience.

Cooking Linguine: The pasta is cooked just under al dente initially, allowing it to finish cooking in the flavorful clam broth later. This technique ensures the pasta absorbs the delicious flavors of the sauce.

Building Flavor: Garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, and olive oil are sautéed together to create a fragrant base for the dish. The addition of white wine and fresh lemon juice adds brightness and complements the briny taste of the clams.

Cooking Clams: Steam the clams until their shells open, discarding any that do not open after sufficient cooking time. Be mindful not to overcook the clams to maintain their tenderness and natural juices.

Creating the Sauce: Whisking butter into the clam cooking liquid enriches the broth, creating a silky texture that coats the linguine. Adjust the consistency with reserved pasta water to achieve a balanced, brothy sauce that clings lightly to the noodles.

Finishing Touches: Stirring in chopped parsley at the end adds freshness and color to the dish. Adjust seasoning with salt, red pepper flakes, and lemon juice to taste before serving.

Presentation: The dish can be served with clams either removed from their shells and mixed into the pasta or kept whole on top for guests to enjoy individually. Drizzle with extra olive oil, garnish with parsley, and serve with lemon wedges and crusty bread for a complete meal.

Nutrition Information:

Calories: 765 kcal | Protein: 36 g | Carbohydrates: 86 g | Dietary Fiber: 5 g | Sugars: 4 g | Fat: 28 g | Saturated Fat: 9 g | Trans Fat: 0 g | Cholesterol: 102 mg | Sodium: 1216 mg

Frequently Asked Questions:

What are littleneck clams, and can I use other types of clams for this recipe?

Littleneck clams are small hard-shell clams commonly used in seafood dishes.

You can use other types such as Manila clams or cockles, adjusting cooking times as needed.

How do I clean clams properly before cooking?

Rinse the clams under cold water to remove any dirt or sand.

Scrub the shells with a brush if needed.

Discard any clams with broken shells or that remain open after tapping them lightly.

Can I substitute the white wine in the recipe?

Yes, you can substitute dry vermouth or seafood stock for the white wine.

The wine adds depth of flavor, but alternatives can work depending on your preference.

Do I need to remove the clam meat from the shells before serving?

It’s traditional to serve some clams in their shells for presentation.

You can remove the meat from some clams and mix it into the pasta, leaving others whole for guests to shell themselves.

What should I do if some clams don’t open during cooking?

Discard any clams that do not open after cooking, as they may not be safe to eat.

This ensures you enjoy only fresh and properly cooked clams.

How can I adjust the garlic and red pepper flakes to suit different tastes?

Adjust the amount of garlic and red pepper flakes based on your preference for spiciness and garlic flavor.

Start with the lower range and add more to taste.

Can I make this dish without butter to reduce the fat content?

Yes, you can omit the butter or use a smaller amount if desired.

The olive oil and pasta water will still create a flavorful sauce for the linguine.

What type of pasta is best to use if I can’t find linguine?

Spaghetti or fettuccine can be good substitutes for linguine in this recipe.

Choose a pasta shape that holds sauce well and cooks to al dente texture.

How should I store leftovers of Linguine With Clams?

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Reheat gently on the stove with a splash of water to maintain texture.

What are some recommended side dishes to serve with Linguine With Clams?

Serve with a fresh green salad, crusty bread for dipping in the sauce, or steamed vegetables like broccoli or asparagus for a balanced meal.

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