Clammy Charm: Spaghetti alle Vongole

Our house never runs out of seafood on the weekend. My hometown is surrounded by three bays thus shellfish is abundant. The problem is what to do with it week after week. 🙂

Traditionally, Manila Clams are cooked into a simple broth with ginger and malunggay leaves (moringa oleifera) and no salt. This gingery soup is normally given to nursing mothers to encourage lactation (no, I don’t know the scientific explanation). Pretty good foil for fried meat dishes, too.

We got tired of the traditional clam soup a few weeks back and made a nice spaghetti alle vongole perfect for a light lunch on a hot day.

Clams only need the smallest boost of flavor so we stuck to the basics – spaghetti, wine, herbs, olive oil,  garlic, shallots, lemon, pepper flakes, butter.

Perfect. The clams were sweet and tasted of the sea. The pasta sucked up all the juices that the clams gave out and the pasta unadorned could be a meal in itself.

The version we ate at Chelsea Market Cafe was a bit overdone. It was very good, but was on the heavy side, what with linguine, sun-dried tomatoes, and a hint of cream in the sauce. The clams were also not so fresh and a bit chewy.

Spaghetti alle Vongole


Enough for five hungry people with two helpings each


500g spaghetti

2 T olive oil

2 small shallots

5 cloves garlic

pinch of red pepper flakes (to taste)

1 cup white wine

half a lemon

2 cups fresh Manila Clams in shell (In our town, they sell this per “baso” or glass which refers to the old glass coffee containers the fish sellers use as a measuring cup 🙂 The clams need to be alive for best results)

a pat of butter


  • Rinse and scrub the clams in cold running water. Then put in a bowl of heavily salted water and leave in a place where you don’t mind things getting wet.  After some time, the clams will begin to spit water and dirt in little spouts. Leave for an hour, then replace the water.
  • Cook the pasta according to directions making sure its still al dente.
  • In high heat, saute the shallots, garlic, black pepper and red pepper flakes in hot olive oil.
  • Degrease pan with white wine and juice of half the lemon.
  • Rinse the clams, then toss in the clams in the pan (without the water!). Give it a good stir so all the clams are coated with the sauteed onions/garlic.
  • When most of the clams have opened their shells (around five mins), remove the shellfish from the pan. Sort through and discard unopened shells. They were dead before they hit the pan and will cause untold horror.
  • Add the herbs and butter into the clam sauce in the pan. Balance out the rich vs fresh taste by adding more butter or lemon juice, respectively.
  • Toss in the cooked pasta and ensure all strands are well coated. Toss in the clams.
  • Serve hot with bread.
Note: Notice I did not add any salt to the recipe. This is not an oversight. The clams are salty enough so they will carry the sauce through. 

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5 thoughts on “Clammy Charm: Spaghetti alle Vongole

  1. Pingback: New england shack-style fried razor clams « livindolcevita

  2. Great recipe I aalwys make my white clam sauce this way except that i never added chopped clams to the recipe .I think I will try it this way for more clam flavor thanks for the hint


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