No-Shell Linguine & Clams

published Oct 11, 2022
No-Shell Linguine + Clams Recipe

Linguine and clams, or vongole, is a dish that celebrates the best that canned fish and pasta has to offer. Lucky for us, this version excludes those fussy clam shells.

Serves3 to 4

Prep10 minutes

Cook30 minutes

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Overhead shot of no-shell linguine and clams in shallow bowl with fork. Glass of white wine
Credit: Photo: Christopher Testani; Food Styling: Rebecca Jurkevich; Prop Styling: Paulina Velez

When I was a teenager, while my friends were enjoying their social lives on the weekends, I worked in Italian American restaurants. Linguine and clams was a common family meal and something I made very regularly. Nowadays, most recipes and restaurants include whole steamed clams (usually littleneck), but we never used fresh clams. And I still prefer this no-shell style.

Linguine and clams, or vongole, is a dish that celebrates the best that canned fish and pasta has to offer. Clam shells just impede the pure act of getting to slurp sauce and chew noodles uninterrupted.

Credit: Photo: Christopher Testani; Food Styling: Rebecca Jurkevich; Prop Styling: Paulina Velez

The Case for Canned Clams

It’s perplexing to me that canned clams aren’t more popular among cooks. We have seen the popularization of tinned fish in sardines, squid, trout, mackerel, and anchovy, and I submit that we should add clams to that list, too.

Back East, I always bought a brand of clams called Cape May. The clams are chopped and therefore coarsely sized and meaty, but the fresh, oceanic brine that the clams come packed in is a magic juice — along with butter and white wine, it serves as the delicious broth that makes this dish so undeniably tasty.

More readily available, however, are Snow’s wild-caught chopped canned clams. You may have a brand that you love, and it is worth seeking out companies producing a sustainable and quality product.

My Pasta Cooking Rule

Aside from the canned clams, the other key to this dish is cooking your linguine no longer than 7 minutes, or 2 to 5 minutes less than what the package instructs. Cook the pasta in boiling salted water for 7 minutes, then add the noodles to your delicious clam sauce. The linguine will swell with the clam broth so that the sauce permeates every bite. Finishing the linguine in the clam broth itself is imperative to having a good, no-shell linguine and clams.

If You’re Going to Make No-Shell Linguine & Clams, a Few Tips

  • A 12-inch sauté pan is preferred, so that you may fit enough broth and pasta into one pan.
  • Do not add your chopped clams until the final minute or two of cooking. The canned clams, when cooked further than that, will turn rubbery and unpleasant.
  • More olive oil, I say. Adding 1/4 cup of olive oil adds a nice layer of richness to this dish, as well, which is my go-to move for most pasta sauces.

No-Shell Linguine + Clams Recipe

Linguine and clams, or vongole, is a dish that celebrates the best that canned fish and pasta has to offer. Lucky for us, this version excludes those fussy clam shells.

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 30 minutes

Serves 3 to 4

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 5 cloves

    garlic

  • 1

    medium or 2 small shallots

  • 1

    medium lemon

  • 1/4 medium bunch

    fresh parsley

  • 1/4 cup

    plus 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon

    red pepper flakes

  • 1 cup

    dry white wine

  • 2 (10-ounce) or 3 (6.5-ounce) cans

    chopped clams in juice, such as Cape May

  • 8 ounces

    dried linguine pasta

  • 1/2 teaspoons

    kosher salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 tablespoons

    unsalted butter

  • Grated Pecorino Romano cheese, for serving

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, prepare the sauce.

  2. Thinly slice 5 garlic cloves (about 2 tablespoons) and finely chop 1 medium or 2 small shallots (about 1/4 cup), and place both in the same small bowl. Halve 1 medium lemon; reserve one half and cut the remaining half into wedges for garnish. Pick the leaves from 1/4 medium bunch fresh parsley until you have 1/4 cup, then coarsely chop the leaves (chop more for garnish if desired).

  3. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a 12-inch frying pan over medium-low heat until shimmering. Add the garlic and shallot and cook until fragrant and translucent, about 2 minutes. Add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute more.

  4. Increase the heat to medium-high. Add 1 cup dry white wine and cook until the liquid is reduced by half and it smells sweet and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Meanwhile, open 2 (10-ounce) or 3 (6.5-ounce) cans chopped clams but do not drain.

  5. Using the lid of the can as a strainer or pouring through a strainer, pour the clam juice from the cans into the pan. Reserve the clams for later. Bring the liquid to a simmer. Drizzle in the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil and stir with a wooden spoon to incorporate the oil into the broth fully. Bring to a strong simmer but not to a boil, adjusting the heat as needed. Reduce the heat to maintain a bare simmer while you cook the pasta.

  6. Add 8 ounces dried linguine pasta to the boiling water and cook for 2 minutes less than package directions for al dente, about 7 minutes.

  7. Using tongs, transfer the linguine directly into the pan of clam broth (it will look quite soupy). Add 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and the 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Cook over medium-high heat, tossing the pasta often, for 4 minutes. If the pan is dry, add the pasta water a tablespoon at a time as needed. Add the reserved clams and gently toss until fully combined and the clams are just warmed through (do not overcook), about 2 minutes more.

  8. Remove the pan from the heat. Squeeze the juice from the 1/2 lemon over the pasta. Add 2 tablespoons unsalted butter and the parsley. Stir and toss vigorously until the butter is melted and the parsley is evenly distributed. Serve with more chopped parsley, grated Pecorino Romano cheese, and the lemon wedges.

Recipe Notes

Storage: This dish is best eaten immediately, but leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days.