A Clam Pasta Gal in a Shrimp Scampi World

Home Movies Tuesday!

Hello and welcome to Home Movies Tuesday! If you’ve found your way over by some miracle but are not yet subscribed, here, let me help you with that:

In case you were wondering, before making this video, yes, there was a voice inside that asked “do you really need to do clam pasta when you already did shrimp scampi?” The answer, unfortunately for anyone who says no, is...yes. I do. You do. We all do! 

They both have wine and shellfish and pasta, sure, but one dish decidedly gives (clams) while the other takes (shrimp), and one dish has bread crumbs (clams) while the other doesn’t (shrimp)! I can’t believe I’m out here pitting my children against each other, who have I become? 

Anyway, do I think there’s a world where I’ll get someone to buy fresh clams over frozen shrimp? No, of course not, but I simply have to encourage you to cook clam pasta because it’s my favorite, truly one of my top 5 favorite things to eat, full stop (clams are perfect! No shrimp can compare, I’m sorry!) and if I ever show up at your home unannounced, I’d love it if you made this for me. So please enjoy. For the original clam pasta love letter via A Newsletter, please head here

P.S. Clam pasta is technically seasonally agnostic, but I think of it as a summer thing. Even if that’s not true, I’m leaning in HARD to the idea that because summer is almost over, you should be making clam pasta before IT’S TOO LATE. I’m choosing to refer to it as clam pasta as opposed to...linguini and clams because thanks to a Fresh Direct mishap, I was forced to use spaghetti. And you know what, I almost prefer it! 

Thank you and please enjoy these last gasps of clam pasta season. See you next week for a very special, kind of ridiculous, bonus episode of Home Movies, featuring hot dogs lol. —AR

(cottage) cheese cake
chef’s kiss, a bi-weekly advice q+a column for paid subscribers

We’re on a little seafood kick here at Home Movies, and honestly, I’m not mad about it because it’s summer, and I love eating seafood in the summer. Whether I’m on vacation or desperately wishing I were on vacation, there’s something about it that feels distinctly summery. As a certified pasta girl whose favorite mealtime is specifically an early summer dinner (6:15 to be exact), a bright, briny seafood pasta is just about the most ideal thing I can think of, and lucky for us, it’s here! 

This clam pasta is especially wonderful. It’s saucy and gorgeous and exactly what I want to eat right now. The clams give up so much flavorful liquid that becomes the perfect base for the pasta to finish cooking. Steaming them open in dry white wine like verdejo keeps things light and acidic, and the mix of cooked and raw garlic is just… mwah. It’s lemony, it’s herby, and the whole thing just works. It’s easy to make, and feels casual but very special—it definitely falls into the Home Movies category of things to cook for someone you love. There’s just something about it that’s sweet and romantic to me, for a dinner for two or a big table full of friends all eating from the pot, drinking the rest of the wine you used to cook the clams (and then some). 

The most important step is rinsing your clams, which has usually already been done for you if you buy them from a seafood market, but there are few things worse than making a beautiful pot of pasta, sitting down for dinner, beaming with pride, and realizing there’s sand in there. Trying to remove sand from pasta? That’s a fool’s errand. No recovering from that. No matter where you get your clams, give them a few good soaks and rinses in cold water until there’s no longer any murkiness. 

Beyond that crucial step, the magic of clam pasta is its flexibility. The non-negotiables here are the clams (lol), lots of garlic, lemon, white wine, and parsley for finishing. Once you have the basic elements down, you can experiment every which way, putting your own spin on this always classic, always perfect dish. I’m a sucker for this recipe as written, but here are some ways you can switch things up:

  • If you want a little extra sweetness, add a sliced shallot or a chopped fennel bulb to the garlic.

  • To add some spice and heft, brown some spicy Italian sausage or chorizo and then let your clams cook in the sausage fat. 

  • If you’re a fellow lemon head, you can chop the whole thing up (you know how much we love a whole lemon) and add it instead of chopping up the peel and adding the juice later.

  • Any white wine will do, so long as it’s dry and crisp, not too expensive, and good enough to drink the rest of the bottle.

  • If you don’t have breadcrumbs, you don’t have to include them, but they really do add a little extra something (texture, more perfect carbs)

  • If you don’t want to use spaghetti, I would go with something else that gives you a satisfying pasta twirl, like linguini or fettuccini. 

Click HERE for a printable PDF.

clam pasta with spicy, toasted breadcrumbs

serves 4

Not unlike shrimp scampi, the excellence of this recipe depends on a saucy, brothy, garlicky wine sauce that should be good enough to drink on its own before adding your extremely al dente pasta to finish cooking in said sauce. The main difference between scampi and this though is A. there is no butter here and B. the clams are giving you a LOT of liquid (shrimp only take— something to think about!), which you can truly flavor however you like. I’m partial to the raw and toasted garlic with lemon, but you could go chili flake and shallot, add a chopped fennel bulb, maybe even start the clams with some sausage. Whether you stick to this recipe or go off on your own journey, just remember to make sure the clams are rinsed to the best of your ability (can’t pick sand out of pasta). Oh, and you may notice there’s no pasta water reserved: congratulations, you don’t need it! There should be more than enough clam juice in the pot to do the job.

3–4 pounds small clams, such as littlenecks, manilla or new zealand* (littlenecks are often sold by the dozen— I average about 8–10 clams per person, so do the math based on how many people you’re feeding)
⅓ cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
¾ cup coarse bread crumbs or panko
Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper
Crushed red pepper flakes
10 cloves garlic, 8 thinly sliced, 2 grated
1 lemon, halved and peel finely chopped
1 cup dry white wine such as verdejo or pinot grigio
1 pound linguini, fettuccini or spaghetti
1 cup finely chopped parsley or chives

1. Wash the clams well under cold running water, paying special attention to the hinge where the two shells meet (that’s where most of the dirt/sediment sticks). If the clams are very fresh or look especially dirty, you can place them in a large bowl of cold water and let them soak for an hour or two so they can filter out the sand/sediment (not always necessary, but I like to if I can think to plan ahead).

2. Set a large pot of salted water on to boil. 

3. Meanwhile, heat half the olive oil in another large pot (or skillet) over medium–high heat. Add bread crumbs and season with salt and pepper. Cook, tossing occasionally until they’re well toasted and evenly browned, 3–5 minutes. Add as much crushed red pepper flakes as you’d like and remove from heat. Transfer them to a small bowl and set aside. 

4. Wipe the pot or skillet from any lingering crumbs, then add remaining olive oil over medium–high heat. Add sliced garlic and cook, stirring occasionally until the garlic is lightly browned, 2–3 minutes. Add chopped lemon peel and let it fry in the garlic oil for about 30 seconds. Add the white wine and clams, season with a little salt, and bring to a simmer. Cook uncovered, only shaking the pot occasionally, letting the clams steam open inside, 8–12 minutes (this will take longer with larger or thicker-shelled clams). 

5. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the clams to a large bowl, leaving any liquid behind (any clams that came out of the shells can stay behind, too—you’re just trying to remove the shells).  

6. Meanwhile, boil the pasta until right before al dente (this step is important! It should be not quite cooked through because you’ll continue to cook it in the clam broth you’ve just made).

7. Drain the pasta (or simply lift the pasta from the pot using tongs). Add the pasta to the clam liquid and bring to a simmer. Cook for 4–6 minutes, occasionally tossing with your tongs to make sure all the pasta is getting even attention from the liquid and encouraging the sauce to thicken. 

8. Taste a pasta strand and make sure it’s well seasoned and cooked through, adding more salt or pepper as needed. Add grated garlic to the pot and stir to combine. Add the clams back to the pot along with half the parsley and toss to coat. Transfer to a serving bowl and top with remaining parsley, a drizzle of olive oil, and the juice from the halved lemon. Serve with toasted breadcrumbs.

*I say 3–4 pounds because the smaller, thin-shelled clams like manilla or new zealand have thinner shells and you’ll need fewer (closer to 3 pounds). I find the littlenecks to be very heavy so I tend to compensate and get closer to 4 pounds. 

Thank you for watching, see you next time for more Home Movies!