Pasta with Extreme White Clam Sauce

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Serves 6

This is a stupidly clammy sauce, so full of clams, it should really be called clams with pasta. The clams in the shell are beautiful and whole and delicious, but the sauce is riddled with plump morsels of chopped clams, so every bite of pasta is filled with clams, not just the forkfuls that are accompanied by a whole clam from the shell. And the sauce is rich with simmered garlic, bright with white wine, and vibrant with red pepper flakes and parsley.  More red pepper flakes are welcome, either in the sauce itself, or passed at the table for those who like it hotter.


  • 3 pounds littleneck clams
  • 2 tablespoons cornmeal
  • ¼ cups extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 pounds dried fettuccine or linguine
  • 1 cups dry white wine
  • 1 ½ cups chicken broth or stock (the richer the better)
  • 1 pounds chopped fresh clams
  • ½ cups roughly chopped fresh parsley leaves, plus more to garnish
  • ¼ teaspoons red pepper flakes, to taste
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1. Scrub the clams. Fill a very large bowl full of cold water, and add a generous tablespoon of salt and the cornmeal. Soak the clams in the water at room temperature for 1 hour, or overnight in the refrigerator. Rinse them well in a colander under cold running water. Discard any that are open.

2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes, until the garlic is soft and a very light golden color; do not allow the garlic to brown. Stir in the red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.

3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt, and cook the pasta according to package directions. You’ll want to cook it until just al dente, and then it will finish cooking in the sauce.

4. Raise the heat under the garlic oil to medium-high. Add the white wine, and the clams in the shell. Cover, bring to a simmer, and after about 5 minutes, as the clams open, remove them with tongs to a side bowl, and reserve them (this may happen over the course of several minutes; discard any that stay closed). Add the chicken broth or stock to the pot, and bring to a simmer. Allow to simmer and reduce a bit, for about 5 minutes.

5. When the pasta is just al dente, drain it, and add it to the simmering broth mixture, along with the chopped clams and parsley. Simmer, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes, until the pasta is cooked to your liking and absorbs the flavors of the sauce, and the clams are cooked. Pour into a serving bowl, and top with the cooked clams in the shell. Sprinkle on additional parsley if desired.

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4 thoughts on “Pasta with Extreme White Clam Sauce”

  1. Jill Melton says:

    I will be trying this!!!!

  2. joseph tomeio says:

    you need to explain the cornmeal!!! being i am a chef i will do it for you…soaking clams in this solution helps the clams spit out any sand in their shells along with the clams ejecting the black stuff that maybe in there…

  3. joseph tomeio says:

    The thought behind using cornmeal is that it is an irritant that causes the clam to “cough” and expel all sand that may be in its shell. There is also a thought that it helps to change the flavor of the meat and make them less fishy (I can’t say I have noticed a flavor difference between a clam purged with cornmeal and one without). Whether you use cornmeal or not you will need to use saltwater. Soaking the clams in saltwater for an hour or two will allow them to cycle clean saltwater in and out of the shell and purge the sand. Using cornmeal to purge is common and is thought to aid in the complete expulsion of the sand, but it really is not the real reason the purging will happen.
    As far as purging farm raised clams, some (perhaps even most) suppliers purge them for you before sending them to market, so doing it yourself may not be necessary. However, I could not find an authoritative source that indicates this is always true.

    1. Katie Workman says:

      thanks! yes, this is my understanding as well.

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