spaghetti with clam sauce recipe
Abel Uribe/Chicago Tribune; Shannon Kinsella/food styling

Recipe of the Day: Spaghetti with Clam Sauce

Making this Italian specialty couldn't be easier
spaghetti with clam sauce recipe
Abel Uribe/Chicago Tribune; Shannon Kinsella/food styling

There's something about the warming weather that makes us crave seafood — usually as we dream of salty sea breezes and oceanside fish shacks. Spaghetti with clam sauce is an easy fix for these shellfish cravings. Known in Italian as spaghetti alle vongole, it's one of those dishes that you might order at a restaurant but is truly easy to make at home. 

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And as sunny as the dish feels, it's actually one of those recipes that is spectacular year-round. You can opt for fresh clams, but keeping cans of minced clams in your pantry makes this the kind of meal you can pull out of your back pocket on those evenings when you haven't been able to plan ahead for dinner. 

Don't be scared off by the anchovies in this recipe. They are optional, but truly worth leaving in. When minced they will practically melt into the sauce and will leave behind a deep umami-rich flavor that is enjoyable and not easily identifiable as anchovy. Using anchovies is one of those restaurant secrets every home cook should know.

The whole dish comes together easily and in under an hour, and is packed with flavor. Clam juice, broth, cream, shallots and garlic create a sauce that is creamy without being heavy. Spaghetti or linguine are traditional, but any long pasta shape would be great. Once you have this recipe down, it will surely become a regular part of your repertoire as it's easy, delicious, and one of many great pasta recipes for whenever you need a pick me up.

Spaghetti with Creamy Clam Sauce Recipe

Recipe by JeanMarie Brownson

Ingredients:

  • 2 (6.5-ounce) cans minced clams
  • About ½ cup chicken broth or bottled clam juice
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4-5 shallots or 1 small white onion, very thinly sliced
  • Half of a 2-ounce can anchovy fillets packed in oil, patted dry and minced, optional
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup dry white vermouth or dry white wine
  • 1 can (4 ounces) fire-roasted diced green chiles, optional
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 12 ounces spaghetti or linguine
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves or 3 tablespoons dried parsley

Directions:

Step 1: Strain 2 (6.5-ounce) cans of minced clams in a colander set over a bowl to catch their liquid. Measure the liquid and add chicken broth or bottled clam juice to make 1 cup total. Reserve liquid and clams separately.

Step 2: Heat a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Step 3: Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet; add 4-5 thinly sliced shallots. Cook until golden, about 3 minutes.

Step 4: Stir in 1 ounce minced anchovies (if using) and 4 cloves minced garlic; cook, stirring, until anchovies dissolve, about 1 minute.

Step 5: Stir in 1 cup vermouth; boil hard to reduce by half, about 3 minutes.

Step 6: Stir in the reserved broth, can of fire-roasted chiles (if using), 1/4 cup cream and 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme; boil hard to reduce slightly, about 4 minutes.

Step 7. Season with pepper flakes and black pepper. Remove from heat.

Step 8: Add the spaghetti to the boiling water. Cook, stirring often until pasta is al dente, about 8 minutes.

Step 9: Stir reserved clams into the skillet; heat mixture until hot.

Step 10: Drain the pasta; return it to the pot. Add the clam sauce, 1/2 cup grated Parm and 1/3 cup chopped parsley. Toss to coat pasta with sauce. Serve with extra cheese.

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