Linguine with clams

This dish requires a little bit of work, but trust me it’s worth it. My obsession began with a simple outing to our favorite Italian restaurant. I had always thought of linguine with clams as a cream laden dish with chewy canned clams – not worth the trouble. But the dish was on special that night and I trusted the chef. I took a chance and the result was awesome. Alas, I only had a few bites because my wife and three-year-old daughter went to town on my portion. Few things make them that happy, so I went home determined to crack the clam code. After many happy close calls, here is my perfected version. The result is fun to eat, delicious, and in true grubian fashion is a dish that it is open to interpretation and improvisation.


  • 3 to 5 lbs of live clams
  • ½ bottle of a dry white wine
  • 1 lb bag of linguine
  • ½ cup of olive oil
  • 1 to 3 cloves of garlic
  • 2 or 3 large tomatoes, diced
  • 3 or 4 handfuls of chopped Italian parsley
  • A few good sprinkles of cayenne pepper


  • Large bowl
  • 2 to 3 cups of cornmeal
  • 1 large Pot for cooking pasta
  • The largest non-reactive skillet you can find
  • Tongs
  • Large colander
  • Strainer lined with paper towels
  • Medium bowl


  1. Fill the large bowl with cold water and pour in enough cornmeal to create a nice little bed on the bottom of the bowl for the clams to nestle into.
  2. Clean the shells of your clams under cold water. Throw out any that are broken, open, or damaged. Place the cleaned clams in the bowl with cornmeal. The cornmeal induces the clams to spit out any dirt that may have gathered inside their shells. Let sit for at least 30 minutes.
  3. When ready to proceed, remove clams by lifting them out one at a time from their bed of cornmeal. Rinse them one by one under cold running water and place cleaned clams in a large colander. Resist that temptation to simply pour that whole bowl of clams into a colander. (Think about it, if you do you will only poor the dirt they just spit out back over the clams.)
  4. Fill a pot with water so that it is high enough to boil pasta and bring to a boil.
  5. Meanwhile pour the wine into the largest skillet you can find and sprinkle in a few good shakes of cayenne pepper. Add cleaned clams and bring to a boil.
  6. Like popcorn the clams will pop open a few at an ever increasing rate until they all seem to be popping at once. As each one begins to open remove it to a bowl. Throw away any stubborn stragglers that refuse to open.
  7. Place a doubled up paper towel in the strainer and put it on top of a medium bowl. Pour the wine liquid into the lined strainer. Let sit for a few minutes while the clam infused wine seeps through to the bowl and the grit and sand gets stuck in the cloth.
  8. Clean the skillet to remove any dirt and return it to the stove.
  9. Now is a good time to add your linguine to the boiling water, as it will take 6 to 12 minutes to cook depending on your stove, pasta and taste. I like it a little firm some people like it soft. Whatever floats your pasta boat.
  10. Coat the bottom of the cleaned pan with olive oil and sauté tomatoes and garlic over a medium high heat.
  11. After a few minutes add the strained wine to the sauté and reduce the heat to low. Throw in a few handfuls of chopped Italian parsley and salt and pepper to taste.
  12. When the linguine is ready, drain in your colander and add to the saucepan. Let the linguine sit for at least three or four minutes so that it absorbs that scrumptious clam sauce flavor.
  13. Add your clams back to the sauté pan, pour the whole shooting match into a large serving dish, and enjoy.

What you should know

To use the good olive or the cheap olive, that is the question. Often with a dish like this I would recommend using a good cheap olive oil. But if you are willing to simmer over a slightly lower heat and spend a little more time and money, a good olive oil can kick this dish up to a whole new level. For the special occasions it’s worth it.

In my kitchen and for my family there is only one linguine that I use and that is rustichelia d’abruzzo. It’s the only pasta that I’ve found that actually absorbs that delectable clam flavor into its very pores while retaining a rich texture. If you know of another please let us know in the comments below.

Re: Linguine with clams

I made this dish the other night, but had neglected to purchase tomatoes at the market. Instead of the tomato, I sautéd one chopped onion which made for a really nice variation.

Re: Linguine with clams

Re: Linguine with clams

Amazing recipe. Thanks.