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Spaghetti and Clam Sauce

I order spaghetti and white clam sauce all the time but have never made it. I am planning on making it this week and have been looking up recipes. Marcella Hazans recipe has no butter, but when I order it, I always taste lots of butter. What is the most traditional formula ( my guess is Marcella is traditional and what I order is not). Also, what are your favorite recipes for this dish.

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  1. Our family favorite is from Craig Claiborne's NY Times Cookbook --- very simple, very fabulous for a canned clams recipe.

    10 Replies
    1. re: Sarah

      Could you post the Claiborne recipe here? I just googled it and couldn't find the recipes, just mentions of how good and simple it is.

      1. re: AhhTahoe

        I have a copy of Claiborne's NEW NY Times cookbook (copyright 1995),and the only spaghetti with clams recipe in it calls for fresh clams, not canned. I've never made it but it looks great - thanks for giving me a reason to look it up!

        It's actually a spicy version, Spaghetti alla Puttanesca con Vongole. I'll paraphrase it (required by site rules when posting recipes).

        Ingredients:
        1/4 cup olive oil
        1 tbsp minced garlic
        4 cups peeled, chopped tomatoes
        1/3 cup chopped parsley
        2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
        1 tsp dried oregano
        1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, or more to taste
        2 tbsp drained capers
        18 black olives, pitted
        2 2-oz cans flat anchovies
        24 littleneck clams, the smaller the better
        1 lb spaghetti

        Heat oil in heavy pan and add garlic. Cook 30 seconds (do not brown), then add the tomatoes, herbs (reserving half the parsley), capers and olives.

        Cook, stirring often, over medium high heat for about 25 minutes. While this is cooking, drain and chop the anchovies and wash the clams.

        When the 25 minutes is up, add the anchovies and remaining parsley. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.

        Put the clams in the pan and cover tightly. Cook five minutes or until all the clams have opened. Serve with al dente spaghetti.

        1. re: BobB

          I tried this with a few changes and it is good but to me it isn't the white clam sauce I know and love. too much going on. But it is a good pasta.

        2. re: AhhTahoe

          White Clam Sauce (about 4 cups)
          1/4 c butter (I use less)
          1 large clove garlic, minced
          2 Tb flour
          2 c clam juice (1 bottle + from canned clams)
          1/4 c chopped parsley
          s&p to taste
          1-1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
          2 c minced clams, fresh or canned (save juice)
          Heat butter in saucepan, add garlic and cook 30 sec. over med heat. Whisk in flour and stir while adding clam juice.
          Add parsley, s,p and thyme and simmer gently 10 mins. Add clams to heat through. Serve over linguine. Enjoy!

          1. re: Sarah

            My Mom would make this- and I hated it as a kid. She always used canned.
            Love it now-thanks for sharing your recipe.

            1. re: Boccone Dolce

              I thought it was a family favorite!! Guess I'm gonna have to beat the truth out of the "kids."

        3. re: Sarah

          That's what we make... both his white and his red. For the white one, tho, I often use fresh clams.

          It's not in the NEW New York Times Cookbook, it's in the original.

          1. re: ChefJune

            I have never tried making the red -- does the clam flavor come through? With the white, I've only used canned -- how many fresh clams do you use instead?

            1. re: Sarah

              yes, the clam flavor definitely comes through with the tomatoes in this recipe.

              When I use fresh, I like a couple of pounds. and plenty of freshly chopped parsley and garlic chives. ;)

              1. re: ChefJune

                Agreed, the flavor is equally as good, just a bit different than white. My ex liked red and me white. Usually, sometimes we reversed. But yep, I like the red, but prefer the white.

        4. I make pasta and white clam sauce often. But I use fresh clams. And butter, butter, butter. One of the key things is lots of chopped Italian (flat-leaved) parsley, and lotsa garlic. Occasionally I'll add some finely diced, sauteed hot pepper.

          1. I don't have a recipe, but was taught by my Italian MIL and it's delicious! I saute sliced garlic(3-4 large cloves) in olive oil over medium heat in a large, wide pot. Add red pepper flakes to taste. Remove garlic pieces (lightly browned) and add 2 dozen well-scrubbed small clams to the pot with about 1 cup of white wine. Cover and steam until clams just open. Pull them out and place in a dish to cool slightly. Remove clam from shell, discarding shells. Strain the broth from the pot through a coffee filter to remove any grit. Add clams (chopped if they're large) and garlic to broth. Finish with a large handful of chopped parsley, more red pepper to taste, and a glug of olive oil. Serve with al dente linguine (or spaghetti in your case) - it's so delicious!

            1. I use Marcella's recipe - have for years and love it. I've never had this dish w/ butter, and couldn't eat it if it did. There are some good threads about this dish from a year or so ago I think. Can try to dig them up for you if you like.

              4 Replies
                1. re: MMRuth

                  thanks! my guess is when I order it, it is not authentic. Looking forward to trying Marcellas recipe, she has not led me wrong yet!

                  1. re: MMRuth

                    I can't recall eating spaghetti w/clams made with butter, but I do vividly remember eating some of the best sauteed clams of my life at the home of a friend in Paris, cooked by his Italian wife. Her secret? Cooking them in butter, not oil. I was shocked - an Italian using buttter in place of olive oil? - but man, were they good!

                    Although when I think about it, we always dip steamers in melted butter - clams and butter are a great combination.

                    1. re: BobB

                      Butter is generally used more in the northern Italian provences, and olive oil in the southern. It's a matter of the the differences in the Italian geography. The southern climate and landscpe is more conducive to growing olive trees, and in the north there's more dairy.

                  2. Mine has butter, it doesn't come out of any known cook book but from a friend who was born and raised in Italy. This was his Moms recipe. Now very often she couldn't get fresh clams and used clams and so has he, but when he can, he uses fresh clams.

                    1 lb linguini; 2-3 cans 7 or 8 oz; 1 medium onion chopped fine; 6 teaspoons of garlic minced; 1/3 cup white wine; 1/3 cup clam juice; 1/3 cup olive oil (he says extra virgin makes all the difference); 2 tablespoons butter; 3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes; 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano not fresh; 1/3 cup chopped parsley.

                    Cook pasta while you saute the onion garlic and oregano and pepper flakes in the olive oil and butter. Add the wine and clam juice and reduce slightly. Add the clams, fresh parsley and toss.