Linguine with White Clam Sauce


Clams are king in summer and August is a great month for the following recipe. Though a little fussy, it yields the best linguine clam sauce I’ve ever had. Commit to its obsessiveness, and you will be rewarded.

  • 2 tablespoons plus ⅔cup olive oil;
  • 2 heaping tablespoons minced garlic;
  • ½ cup thinly sliced garlic;
  • 24 large cherrystone clams (or a few more, if necessary-see NOTE;
  • 12 ounces linguine;
  • 4 teaspoons finely minced parsley

1. Place 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large, non-reactive sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the 2 tablespoons of minced garlic and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is light golden-brown (about 2 minutes.) Remove garlic and reserve at room temperature. Spill oil out of pan and wipe clean with a dry paper towel.

2. Return pan to medium heat. Add the ⅔cup of olive oil and the ½ cup of thinly sliced garlic. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until the=2 0garlic is just starting to color (about 3 minutes.) Remove pan from heat and reserve, covered, at room temperature, for at least 4 hours (and no more than 8 hours).

3. Either ask your fishmonger to shuck the clams for you, reserving the juice, or shuck them yourself. Cut the clam bellies into coarse chunks (about 3 pieces per belly.) When done, you should have about 2 cups of fresh clam juice and about 1⅓ cups of minced clams. You will need all of the clams, and 1½ cups of the clam juice. If you have less, you must make up the difference by shucking a few more clams.
4. When ready to cook, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add the linguine, and cook until al dente, about 8 or 9 minutes.

5. Towards the end of the linguine cooking time, place the reserved pan with the thinly sliced garlic over medium-high heat. As soon as it starts to sizzle, add 1½ cups of the fresh clam juice (reserve the rest for another use.) Whisk it together with the oil, bring almost to a boil, then turn heat off.

6. When the linguine is done, drain it in a colander. Return it to the pasta cooking pot over medium-high heat, along with the 1 1/3 cup of minced clams. Toss in the pot for 1 minute. Add the hot clam juice with oil and garlic and toss for 1 minute more. Divide the linguine with white clam sauce among 4 wide, shallow bowls, making sure to evenly divide pasta, clams and sauce. Sprinkle each bowl with a quarter of the reserved minced garlic, and with 1 teaspoon of minced parsley. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

NOTE: Though this recipe calls for 24 cherrystone clams, the really important ingredients are 1⅓ cups of coarsely chopped clams, and 1½cups of fresh clam juice. I specify 24 cherrystones, because I know that they will usually yield what you need. But if you only have access to smaller clams, or larger clams, don’t hesitate to use those-as long as you extract 1⅓cups of coarsely chopped clams, and 1½cups of fresh clam juice. If you have no access to fresh clams-only to canned clams and bottled clam juice-you can still make this dish using the same proportions of meat and juice. It just won’t have the same level of sea-bright flavor.

Published on November 3, 2009
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