Every year on my birthday when I was growing up, I would ask my mom to make pasta and clam sauce. It’s always been one of my favorite meals. For me, it’s a true comfort food. That kind of food that makes all of your troubles just disappear into the clouds, leaving everything right in the world.
The combination of flavors is, well, perfect. White wine, lemon, clams, and fresh parsley. Does life get any better?? I think not. That combined with the memories of eating this dish make it really special to me. If you like shellfish, I promise this recipe will not disappoint.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Shellfish are too difficult to cook and this recipe is going to be way too complicated. Quite the opposite. This dish comes together quickly and easily. The most time-consuming part is just scrubbing the clams. And that really doesn’t take more than a few minutes. You can do this! It’s so delicious and so worth it!
Now some tips for the cooking process. My biggest tip is to make sure not to overcook the clams. Overcooked clams will be overly chewy. You’ll know the clams are done when they open up. This could be a slight crack of less than a centimeter or even a whole inch. The clams will all open within about a minute of one another. Discard any clams that do not open. This means they were dead prior to cooking. Please don’t eat those, they could make you sick.
You’ll notice that there is no added salt in this recipe. That’s because as the clams cook and open, their delicious salty brine seeps out into the pot and gives this dish all the saltiness it needs. How’s that for straight from the sea flavor?
- 5 lbs fresh live clams (smaller types recommended, i.e. Little Neck or Cherry Stone)
- 4-6 oz dry quinoa pasta (try to find a corn-free version like Andean Dream)
- 2 Tbsp ghee or butter (grass-fed recommended)
- 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 shallot, finely diced
- 5 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1/16 tsp red pepper flakes (1/8 tsp for a spicy version)
- 1 lemon, juiced (approx. 3 Tbsp lemon juice)
- ¾ cup dry white wine (Sauvignon Blanc is great here!)
- ⅛ tsp black pepper
- 4 Tbsp fresh Italian parsley, chopped
- Clean clams thoroughly using cool running water and a coarse brush.
- Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package. Make sure to cook the pasta al dente. You may need to subtract one minute from the cooking time.Set pasta aside.
- Melt ghee/butter and olive oil together over medium heat in a large, heavy pot or dutch oven.
- After the pot is heated, add garlic, shallot, and red pepper flakes and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add wine, lemon juice, and black pepper. Simmer over medium heat for 3 minutes. Reduce liquid by about ¼. You will need the liquid to be fluid enough to steam the clams, so if it looks too thick, add a little more wine by the Tbsp til you get a thinner consistency.
- Add clams, cover, and increase heat to medium-high. Cook for 8-9 minutes. After 8 minutes start checking to see if the clams have opened. If a few are open but most are still closed, replace the lid quickly and let it cook for another minute or so.
- Remove clams to a heatproof bowl using tongs. Cover with lid or foil to keep them warm.
- Reduce liquid for 10-15 minutes over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is reduced by ½ and looks thick enough to stick to the pasta (don't reduce too much or it will be overly salty!).
- Place pasta in pasta bowls or on plates, ladle sauce over the pasta, then place clams on top. Or simply mix pasta right into the sauce in the pot, then serve from there and top with clams. Garnish with parsley.
I hope you enjoy this dish as much as I do!