Pasta with Clam Sauce

by Jan 3, 2024

There are no canned clams on the shelves of my grocery stores at the moment…I wonder if the word has gotten out?! Canned clams are great for making quick dinners like clam chowder and this simple clam sauce for pasta. Brand matters—I go for Bar Harbor from Maine. Pasta matters too. My favorite brands are Faella available through Guistiamo and Rustichella d’Abruzzo which you can get at Joe’s Parkway here in Bozeman.

This clam sauce can be served with a moderate amount of pasta (about 2 ounces per person) or a lot of pasta, which is what we’ve got going on in the photo because I like to cook the whole package. If you go with 8 ounces, you will have more sauce.

Pasta with Clam Sauce

adapted from "No-Shell Linguine + Clams Recipe" from The Kitchn

Servings 4


  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 head fennel, sliced optional
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thinly
  • 1 large shallot, peeled and finely minced
  • 1 pinch dried red chile flake
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon Pernod optional
  • 3 6.5-ounce cans chopped clams and their juice Bar Harbor
  • 1 lemon, half for cooking, remaining half cut into wedges for serving
  • 8–17 ounces dried pasta, linguine or any shape you prefer Genovesine Faella is a fun shape (like a small penne)
  • a couple pinches of sea salt or flake salt Trapani from Giustiamo or Maldon
  • several grinds of fresh black pepper
  • ¼ bunch parsley, leaves stripped from stems and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano for serving optional



  1. Put a large pot of water to boil for the pasta. When it comes to a boil, add salt (like a tablespoon or two).

Clam Sauce

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a 12-inch frying pan over medium heat then add the fennel (optional), garlic, and shallot. Cook until translucent, a few minutes. Add the red chile flake and cook another minute.

  2. Increase heat to medium-high and add the white wine and optional Pernod. Cook until liquid is reduced by half. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the juice from the three cans of clams (reserving the clams to add later), and bring to a simmer. Lower heat to maintain a gentle simmer while you cook the pasta.

Pasta continued

  1. Add the pasta to the boiling, salted water, and cook very al dente, about 2 minutes less than the package directions. Save some pasta water before draining the cooked pasta, you might need it to loosen the sauce.

Clam Sauce continued

  1. Transfer cooked pasta to the pan of clam broth. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook over medium-high heat, lifting and stirring the pasta into the sauce using tongs and/or a spoon. If the pan is dry, add pasta water a tablespoon at a time.

  2. Add the reserved clams at the last minute and cook until just warmed through, about 2 minutes. Squeeze half lemon over the pasta and add the butter and parsley. Serve with lemon wedges and optional cheese.

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