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 that’s not all….far from it. 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.
Which of course are the forkfuls one just pause and really enjoy.
This is a white clam sauce, as you can clearly see. When I was a kid my mom used to buy white clam sauce in a can, and we thought it was really delicious — which in retrospect must have made my mom happy because now that I am a mom I know that it makes me awfully happy that my kids like calm sauce. I surely wouldn’t take that for granted.
Also in retrospect, that stuff must have been really high in sodium. I just looked it up. It is. But it got us hooked.
When I go to Arthur Avenue with my friend Gena Bone and her dad Ed Giobbi, there is always a stop at a fish market, and there are always beautiful clams there. If I know I won’t be able to cook them in the next day or two at max, I can’t buy them. But if I’m smart, I will have cleared the dinner decks for that night, or the following night, and then I can buy one pint of chopped clams in their juice, and a few dozen clams in the shell, and I can make this.
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.
Pasta with Extreme White Clam Sauce
- 3 pounds littleneck clams Or more if you want to go for it
- 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 pound 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
- 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.
- In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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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