Pasta with Clams in White Wine Garlic Sauce (Pasta alle Vongole)
Pasta with Clams in White Wine Garlic Sauce, a twist on the classic Spaghetti alle Vongole made with littleneck clams in a white wine garlic sauce.
Love clams? Love pasta? Put them together to make this twist on traditional Pasta with Clams! Made with a homemade white wine garlic sauce, this seafood pasta is packed with flavor.
👉 Ready to learn how to make pasta with clams and white wine sauce? Let’s do it!
- Pasta: Traditionally Pasta alla Vongole is made with spaghetti, but we love a thicker pasta noodle like fettuccine or bucatini
- Clams or mussels: Littleneck clams are the stars of this pasta, but mussels are also a great choice for this recipe
- White wine: A dry white wine like pinot grigio or a sauvignon blanc works well for the sauce
- Olive oil: Extra virgin olive oil is the base of this sauce and helps to bring out the cooked flavors of the ingredients
- Sauce seasonings: Fresh chopped parsley, fresh squeezed lemon juice, whole garlic cloves, and a pinch of salt and pepper
- Recommended tools: colander, large pot, large pan
🥣 How to make (step-by-step photos)
1️⃣ Step One: Boil pasta
The first step to making pasta with clams is to…make the pasta! Traditionally Pasta alla Vongole is made with long, medium thick noodles like spaghetti, fettuccine, or bucatini, however you can use any type of pasta for this dish.
To cook the pasta, simply boil it in lightly salted water and cook until it’s al dente, or cooked but still slightly firm. This usually takes about 8 minutes, but refer to your specific pasta’s instruction.
While the pasta is cooking, get started cooking the clams in white wine sauce but a quick reminder: before you drain the pasta, make sure to preserve 1/2 cup of the water that the pasta was cooked in! This will help thicken the sauce in step three.
2️⃣ Step Two: Make the clams in white wine garlic sauce
While the pasta is cooking, it’s time to cook the clams and make the white wine garlic sauce.
To do this, simply heat olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Then add the whole garlic cloves and cook for about 1-2 minutes, or until the garlic gives off its strong aroma.
Next, add white wine to the pan with a sprinkle of red pepper flakes and cook until the wine starts to boil. Then add the cleaned clams (see clam prep instructions below) and cook until they open wide, about 5-7 minutes (if there are clams that do not open, remove them from the pasta sauce and throw them out).
3️⃣ Step Three: Add pasta, season, and serve
When the pasta is done cooking, reserve about 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water and set aside. Then drain the pasta and add it to the pan with the clams and white wine sauce.
Then slowly drizzle in the pasta water, stirring continuously to completely mix the pasta, clams, and sauce while also allow the sauce to thicken up with the added pasta water. This usually takes about 1-2 minutes.
Finally, sprinkle the pasta with salt and pepper, chopped fresh parsley, and a squeeze of lemon before serving. Then enjoy!
💧 How to soak and clean clams
If you have ventured into cooking with mussels and clams, you’ll know that if you do not soak them ahead of time that you will likely end up with a few sand granules in your pasta. If you don’t enjoy munching on sand with your pasta (who does?) then your best bet is to soak your clams ahead of time to make sure they release all of their sand.
To soak clams or mussels:
- Soak clams: Place clams in a large bowl full of cold(ish) water with a bit of dissolved salt (about ½ teaspoon for a very large bowl will work, it’s not vital to have a perfect salt to water ratio). Allow clams to soak for about ten to fifteen minutes and then remove them and dump water.
- Refill and repeat until clean: You will likely see a bit of sand at the bottom of the water when you remove the clams, this is good and means the clams are filtering the sand and sediment through the water. Refill and repeat the soaking until you do not see any more sand.
- Clean outer shells: Also make sure the clam shells are clean and free from dirt and mud before cooking.
👉 Important clam safety tips! Any fresh clams that are open and do not close when flicked or tapped before cooking should be discarded, as they are likely already dead and are not safe to eat. Likewise, any clams that don’t open after cooking should also be discarded. Healthy clams will close when tapped before cooking, and will open wide after cooked.
💡 Ideas for serving
Pasta with Clams is a great foundational recipe that can be substituted with any number of different pasta and fresh seafood.
- Not into bucatini? Go traditional with spaghetti or choose cavatappi for a completely different pasta texture.
- Substitute clams for mussels or add shrimp to make a pasta with seafood double whammy.
- Try basil instead of parsley, switch up type of white wine used, or even add a bit of parmesan and cream to thicken the sauce.
🧊 How to store
- Refrigerator storage: Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days. Make sure to remove clam meat from the shells (and add back into your pasta) before reheating.
- Freezer storage: We do not recommend reheating this recipe as the pasta will not have the same texture after freezing and thawing.
♻️ Sustainable seafood tips
We’re all about building an eco-friendly kitchen at Fork in the Road and love giving tips for how to make meals more sustainable.
👉 Eco tip: Choose climate-friendly clams. Clams are considered a sustainable seafood choice as their off-bottom aquaculture farming methods are not destructive to the environment. See the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch report on clams for the best type to buy.
🍝 More pasta recipes
Want more pasta recipes? We’ve got you covered:
Pasta with Clams in White Wine Garlic Sauce
- 8 ounces pasta bucatini, fettuccine, etc.
- 1 generous pinch salt for pasta boiling water
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 whole garlic cloves
- 1 pinch red pepper flakes to taste
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 1 pound clams soaked and cleaned
- 1 cup chopped parsley
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice from 1 lemon
- 1 pinch salt and pepper to taste
- Boil pasta: Boil pasta in lightly salted water until al dente (slightly firm), about 8 minutes (or according to package instructions).
- Make white wine sauce: Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic cloves and cook 1-2 minutes, or until garlic gives off its strong aroma. Add white wine and cook until the liquid starts to boil, then add clams to the pan and sprinkle with red pepper flakes. Cook over medium heat until all of the clams open wide. If any clams do not open after 5-7 minutes, remove them to the trash.
- Add pasta and season: When pasta is done, reserve about 1/2 cup of pasta water and set aside. Then drain pasta and add to the pan with the clams and white whine sauce. Mix the pasta with the white wine and clams, adding a small amount of pasta water to the pan to help thicken the sauce. Cook 1-2 minutes and remove from heat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper (to taste), add fresh chopped parsley, and a squeeze of fresh lemon before serving.
- Clam safety tips: Clean clams before cooking by adding them to a bowl of lightly salted cool water for 10-15 minutes, and then throw out water before cooking. Do not use any clams that are open and do not close when flicked (meaning the clams are likely dead). Throw out any clams that do not open after 5-7 minutes of cooking.
- Leftovers and storage: Store in an airtight container after pasta has cooled. Pasta can be refrigerated and consumed up to four days after making, however remove clam meat from the shells and add back into pasta before reheating. Do not freeze as pasta will not retain its texture after thawing.
- Nutrition notes: Nutrition is calculated without salt for pasta boiling water.
UPDATED: This recipe was originally published in January 2018 and was updated for clarity in June 2022.
Great post! I’ve never cooked with clams before, so was nice to read.
Thank you! I was intimidated to cook with them as well but they’re actually super easy to work with. Thanks for stopping by!
Cooking a live lobster breaks my heart until I dip it in some garlic lemon butter sauce.
You officially win the comment section! So true.
Great post! I grew up with all kinds of sea creatures and offal, so nothing really intimidates me. However, I know many are intimidated by sea creatures. This post is very informative, and encouraging! And the Pasta With Clams looks and sounds amazing!
I grew up in the middle of the country and I didn’t like fish until my early 20’s, so it was definitely a new experience to cook with them! But it always feels good to add a new dish (and kitchen skill) to my list. Thanks for stopping by!
I’ve never cooked with live seafood before, but I can definitely get down on some clams (and/or mussels) in white wine garlic sauce. I usually just dip a bunch of bread into the sauce once I devour the seafood, but pasta is a PERFECT vessel to get more white wine, garlic, and clams into my mouth. I can’t wait to try this out!
Oh yes, bread is not optional in a delicious sauce like this. Maybe I need to add a cioppino recipe soon, THAT is my favorite recipe for a good bread-dipping experience.
I’m definitely intimidated by mussels and clams but I have been wanting to try them! I used to be intimidated by french macarons but got over that by just deciding that they didn’t have to turn out perfectly for me to enjoy them!
They don’t have to look perfect to be tasty! It’s all a journey, I used to be intimidated by a lot of foods that now are staples in my house. It’s all about learning and gaining new kitchen skills.
I’m with you on Italy. . .it’s such a lovely country and the food is about as good as it gets (I’m still dreaming about that homemade Caprese Ravioli that I had on Capri). This delicious looking pasta is certainly making me yearn for another trip.
You have dreams about the food you’ve eaten as well? I have a list of about five foods I dream of on the regular. (Which gives me an excuse to book a trip from time to time).
I love bucatini and honestly do not see enough recipes using it! And clams is one of my favorite shellfish. I have a few packages of clams in the freezer so this recipe will definitely make it to my table this week!
I completely agree, I think it was Bon Appetit magazine that named it the best pasta recently. I’ve never frozen clams, I’ll have to try it!
Shd hv read this b4 cooking?
Oh no! Well I hope it’s helpful to you the next time you decide to cook pasta with clams, it’s one of my favorite simple seafood pasta dishes.
This recipe looks exactly like how they make the pasta in Italy. It is completely different from how it is prepared in America. This is how I love my pasta! Can you please tell me what kind of white wine you used? There are so many varieties…BTW, I’m going to try this dish vegan style with mushrooms instead of clams, what do you think?
Yes, this preparation is definitely the style used in Italy (my husband is from Italy, born and raised, and he taught me how to make this delicious dish). I used a pinot grigio for the white wine, but a sauvignon blanc or even a chardonnay would work as well. And I think this would be delicious vegan! Mushrooms sounds like a great substitution, I would suggest a shiitake or even a morel because they have stronger flavor profiles are will mimic the “clams” texture more then a sliced crimini or button. Make sure to check back in and let me know how it turns out!
I have a love affair with vongole. Of all the variations on the clam theme I like this recipe the best for its simplicity. People try to do too much to this dish. Thank you for publishing it.
I’m so glad you liked it, Dale! This is such an easy and simple recipe, and you’re right that people try to complicate it. But that’s the beauty of Italian cooking. Thanks for leaving a review!