Spaghetti alle Vongole

Spaghetti with Clams


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

The Italian Regional Cookbook

The Italian Regional Cookbook

By Valentina Harris

Published 2017

  • About

This is an absolute classic of southern Italian cooking, and depends on the careful preparation of really fresh clams for the best result, as well as good- quality pasta. As with all recipes using clams, do make sure that they are as clean as possible before you cook them to avoid an unpleasant muddy taste or a gritty sensation between your teeth. Rinse them in several changes of water until the water runs clear. Many different versions of this traditional dish exist all over the country, but this one is from Campania.


  • 1.5 kg/ lb fresh baby clams
  • 90 ml/6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 400 g/14 oz spaghetti or vermicelli
  • 45 ml/3 tbsp chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • sea salt and ground black pepper


  1. Scrub the clams thoroughly in several changes of fresh water to make sure you have removed all traces of sand or mud. When the water is completely clear, the clams are clean. Discard any clams that do not close when sharply tapped on a work surface.

  2. Drain the clams and put them into a wide, fairly deep frying pan with 30ml/2 tbsp of the oil. Cover the pan and put it over a high heat.

  3. When the pan is hot, shake it regularly over the heat for 6-7 minutes, to open the clams up. Discard any clams that remain closed after this time.
  4. Meanwhile bring a large pan of salted water to the boil for the pasta.
  5. Drain the clams and reserve the liquid. Set the clams and their liquid aside.
  6. In the same pan, heat the remaining olive oil with the garlic over a low heat for 3 minutes, then add the clams and strain the reserved liquid over.

  7. Mix everything together and bring to the boil, then cover and take off the heat.
  8. Add the pasta to the pan of salted boiling water and stir. Return to the boil and cook according to the pack instructions until al dente.

  9. Drain the pasta and return it to the pan.
  10. Pour the clams and liquid over the pasta and toss everything together. Add the parsley and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Toss again and transfer to a warmed platter or bowl. Serve immediately.


This classic recipe can also be made with a tomato-based sauce, though it does make for a very different kind of dish. Use the same ingredients as here, but shell the clams and add a 400g/14oz can of tomatoes or passata/bottled strained tomatoes to give the sauce a deep, sweet richness.