How to Cook Spaghetti with Clam Sauce

Karen Frazier
Red clam sauce with noodles

Spaghetti with clam sauce is a popular pasta recipe. Two favorite versions of this dish are pasta with a red clam sauce and pasta with a white clam sauce.

Spaghetti

Both sauce recipes below use spaghetti as a base. You can use dried or refrigerated spaghetti. If you have a pasta maker, you can also make homemade pasta dough and use fresh spaghetti, which will take your spaghetti with clam sauce to a new level. If you make homemade noodles, finish them about an hour before you plan to make your final dish, and cook them in the last few minutes your sauce cooks.

Red Clam Sauce

The following red sauces can be tossed with your spaghetti. One recipe is for fresh clams and the other is for canned.

Red Sauce with Canned Clams

This recipe calls for canned clams, as well as the juice in the clams, which adds a briny flavor to the sauce.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2- 28 ounce cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1-15 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
  • Pinch dried red pepper flakes
  • 2-6 oz cans of chopped clams with juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 pound spaghetti

Method

  1. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large pot.
  2. Add onions and cook until they are soft, about five minutes.
  3. Add garlic and cook until it is fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  4. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, oregano, garlic powder, salt, black pepper, and pepper flakes.
  5. Simmer over low heat for 45 minutes.
  6. Add clams and juice. Simmer for five more minutes.
  7. Stir in basil and parsley.
  8. Toss with hot spaghetti.

Red Sauce with Fresh Clams

Ingredients

  • 2 dozen fresh steamer clams
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2-28 ounce cans of crushed tomatoes
  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 cup each chopped fresh basil and parsley
  • 1 pound cooked spaghetti

Method

  1. Place clams in a large saucepan with about an inch of water on the bottom.
  2. Cover saucepan and place over high heat.
  3. Allow clams to steam until they open, about two to three minutes. Throw away any clams that do not open.
  4. Reserve water and set aside.
  5. Remove clams from shells and refrigerate.
  6. In a large pot, heat oil over medium high heat until it is shimmering hot.
  7. Add onions and cook until they are soft, about five minutes.
  8. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  9. Add tomatoes, reserved clam water, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.
  10. Simmer for 45 minutes.
  11. Add refrigerated clams and bring to temperature.
  12. Stir in basil and parsley.
  13. Toss with cooked spaghetti.

White Clam Sauce

White sauces don't contain tomatoes, which allows for purer flavors of the herbs and seafood to come through. The white sauces are broth based and lighter, making them delicious warm weather fare.

White Sauce with Canned Clams

This sauce uses canned clams.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 anchovy filets, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • Pinch dried red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 2 cans chopped clams with juice
  • 1/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1 pound spaghetti

Method

  1. Heat oil in a large sauté pan until it is shimmering hot.
  2. Add anchovies and garlic. Sauté for about 30 seconds, until fragrant.
  3. Stir in white wine and allow to simmer for one minute.
  4. Add thyme, red pepper, white pepper, and clams. Cook until hot.
  5. Remove from heat and add parsley.
  6. Toss with cooked spaghetti.

White Clam Sauce with Fresh Clams

This sauce allows you to use the clam shells in presentation, making it a pretty dish. Before using the clams, make sure you wash them well to remove dirt and sand.

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • White clam sauce with noodles
    1 shallot, minced
  • 2 stalks fennel, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 2 pounds fresh steamer clams
  • 1 pound fresh pasta
  • 1/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped

Method

  1. In a large pot, melt butter and heat until it bubbles.
  2. Add shallot and fennel and cook until soft, about five minutes.
  3. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  4. Add white wine and cook for three minutes.
  5. Add lemon juice, salt, pepper, and clams.
  6. Cover the pot and allow clams to steam until they open. Remove any unopened clams.
  7. Toss clams with pasta and parsley.

Cheese

Traditional Italian recipes don't mix any cheese with seafood, which is why none of these recipes call for grated Parmesan, Asiago, or other cheeses. While traditional recipes don't call for them, if you enjoy your pasta with grated Italian cheese, feel free to add a little after cooking.

The Perfect Pairing

If you enjoy pairing wine with your pasta, try a delicious Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio for the white sauces or a Chianti or Zinfandel with the red sauces. By enhancing the flavors with the wine you choose, you'll have a delicious pasta meal.

How to Cook Spaghetti with Clam Sauce