Dad’s Pasta With Clam Sauce

Do you like clams? I have a feeling clams are kind of like oysters and minivans. You love ’em or hate ’em. If you are a lover, oooh have I got a recipe for you. My dad came up with it years ago, and we have been enjoying it ever since.

It’s pasta with clam sauce. Sounds fancy, doesn’t it?

It is. John made it on Valentine’s Day back in 2010. (I remember the year because it was two weeks after Jack was born. My mom and John’s aunt Lanie came over for dinner, and John bought a dozen roses for each of us. With the Beatles playing in the background, we enjoyed pasta with clam sauce, warm bread and red wine by candlelight, and passed around the baby between bites.)

The dish is also casual though. I made it for lunch like every other day when I was pregnant with Elle (must have been craving the iron!). And we make it for weeknight dinners every so often. You can make it with any kind of pasta to fit your diet . . . maybe rice noodles, spelt rotini, quinoa shells, or whole wheat spaghetti.

As for the clams, you have two choices: chopped clams or whole baby clams. The chopped (or minced) clams are great if you are serving kids or don’t really love the texture of a whole clam. The upside to the whole clams is that they are a great source of iron. Either way, this dish is soooo delish!

Dad’s Pasta with Clam Sauce

Serves 4 to 6

Need a tasty dinner but don’t have time to go to the grocery?  This is your dish!  As long as you keep your pantry stocked with a few basic items (diced tomatoes, baby clams, and pasta), you can make this easy and surprisingly elegant dinner any night of the week.  The other great news is that high-quality baby clams are an excellent source of iron, providing nearly 100% of your daily needs!


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ cup dry white wine

2 cans (14.5 ounces, each) petite diced tomatoes (or crushed, if you prefer a smoother texture)

2 cans (6.5 ounces, each) baby clams (or chopped clams, if you prefer)

Kosher salt, for seasoning

Freshly ground pepper, for seasoning

Pinch of dried red pepper flakes, optional

1 ½ lb. spaghetti, or other pasta

Finely chopped fresh basil

For Serving: ¼ to ½ cup grated parmesan cheese

For Garnish: whole fresh basil leaves


Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large saucepan. (The saucepan should be large enough to hold the sauce and pasta.)  Add garlic to the oil; cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Add wine and both cans of tomatoes with juice.  Pour juice from cans of clams into the pan (we’ll add the clams later).  Simmer, stirring occasionally, while pasta is cooking.

Add pasta to pot of boiling water.  Cook until pasta is “al dente” (tender but slightly firm to the bite), stirring occasionally.  Reserve about 1 cup of pasta water.  Drain pasta, discarding the remaining pasta water.

Check the clam sauce: if most of the liquid has evaporated, add pasta water, about ¼ cup at a time, until desired consistency is achieved (I like it a little soupy, but you might like it thicker).  Taste; add salt and pepper, and red pepper flakes if desired. Add clams and stir; cook about 2 minutes, just to heat through.

Add the pasta to the sauce and toss gently.

Add basil, toss again. Remove pan from heat. Serve pasta on individual plates, top with parmesan cheese and serve immediately.

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2 Responses to Dad’s Pasta With Clam Sauce

  1. Vivian Min July 25, 2014 at 11:16 am #

    Thanks so much for the recipe with detailed instructions!

    • Marie Saba
      Marie Saba July 30, 2014 at 7:27 am #

      Sure Vivian! Thanks for the comment! Hugs!!

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