How To Make Spaghetti With Clam Sauce

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Here’s a classic traditional recipe, by Italian Chef Chicca Maione. She can even teach you the art of making spaghetti with clam sauce in person through her cooking classes (If you are looking for a great vacation).

This quick and easy to make recipe delivers an incredible flavor! This version doesn’t include tomatoes, so it is ‘in bianco’, but if you want to add color, throw in some diced tomatoes. If you use good quality pasta (check for pasta di Gragnano) the result is terrific! Clams may be substituted for other types of mussels.

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Let’s Make Spaghetti with Clam Sauce!

Diet Considerations

  • Dairy-Free

Ingredients (Serves 4 to 5)

  • 500 g / 1 lb spaghetti or linguine
  • ½ tsp of chili flakes
  • 1 kg / 2 lb clams, the smaller the better
  • 3 handfuls coarse sea salt
  • 4 garlic cloves; 3 peeled and finely chopped and 1 peeled and crushed
  • 2 handfuls of fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped
  • 120 ml / 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil


Prep Time: 15 minutes.

Cook Time: 25 minutes.

  1. Sauté the Ingredients

    Place a large saucepan over medium heat, add some extra virgin olive oil, the crushed garlic, and the chili pepper. Sauté gently for about 3 minutes (don’t brown the garlic), add clams, and cover with a lid.

  2. Steam the Clams

    Steam the clams until open and discard any clams that have not opened. Usually, it takes 8-10 minutes. Take clams from the shell (keep just a few with shells for decoration) and strain the liquid they have released to leave any sand behind.

  3. Cook the Spaghetti

    Meanwhile, put water (about 4 quarts) to boil in a large pot. When it comes to a boil add coarse sea salt and then cook the spaghetti. Drain pasta when it is nearly done (taking pasta out before it is completely cooked, 2 minutes before) and save some of the cooking water.

  4. Add another Pan

    While pasta is cooking, in another sauté pan large enough to hold all the pasta, pour abundant extra virgin olive oil to cover the bottom. Sauté the chopped garlic without burning it and turn off the gas. Add the clams and their liquid. Don’t add salt to the sauce because clams are already salty.

  5. Add the Spaghetti

    Add the spaghetti to the pan with the clams and simmer for 2-3 minutes over medium heat. Add more cooking water if needed. Stir until pasta is tender and the sauce is creamy.

  6. Garnish

    Garnish with parsley and the unshucked clams. Serve immediately.

  7. Important! Soak the Clams

    Before cooking the clams it is a good idea to soak them in salty cold water for at least 30 minutes. This is important to purge the clams of their sand. Even only a few grains will ruin your dish. 

  8. Important! Get good Pasta

    For this dish the quality of pasta is crucial. Try to find the best quality of spaghetti or linguine and avoid any potentially mushy pasta!

  9. Important! Add Olive Oil

    Be generous with extra virgin olive oil. It is the base of this sauce and pasta!

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Need Help?


Plan it into your week

The best way to remember to make it is to plan for it. Learn about meal prep through our article Meal Prep 101, by dietician Shannon Costello.


Print out the ingredient list

Need the ingredients list on hand? Simply pull up the article on your phone (it’s mobile compatible) or click here to print it out.


Email Chicca for help

Chicca’s here to help. If you need assistance with the recipe, email her at


Take the class

Feeling adventurous? Take a trip over to Italy and take the class, led by Chicca, on how to make spaghetti with clam sauce (as well as many other amazing dishes)!

Feeling really adventurous? Enjoy a week of classes and an authentic experience of life in Tuscany, Italy, through her all-inclusive Cooking Vacation.

About the Author

Chicca Maione

Chicca Maione

Italian Chef

Chicca is a Tuscan-based architect and passionate chef of home-cooked food. After many years of cooking for family and friends, she found her calling: teaching people how to cook authentic homemade food while sharing recipes and stories about her incredible culture. She has spread the traditional-Italian and typical-Tuscan cuisine in Italy and abroad for the past 19 years.
Full Bio

* Recipe posted with permission from the author, Chicca Maione, at Cooking in Tuscany.

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