Pasta alle vongole / Pasta with clams

Real Italian cuisine is always on the ‘minimalist’ side. What I find is that Italians almost always favour dishes with a few simple ingredients, emphasizing on the natural flavours of the produce. Pasta alle vongole, pasta with clams, is a great example of a dish bursting with flavours, made with only a couple of simple ingredients. It’s packed with natural umami from clams, at the same time garlicky, and with just a hint of spiciness. Easy, elegant, and delicious, pasta with clams is an irresistible Italian dish.

Ingredients (serves 1):

  • 1 serving pasta
  • 250g clams
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2tsp crushed red pepper
  • 50-60ml white wine
  • dried / fresh parsley to taste
  • salt, pepper to taste


  • ‘nduja 1tsp, or any Italian hot sausage (filling only)
  • zest of lemon


  1. Soak clams in cold water for 20-60 minutes, this will make clams expel sand from inside. Rinse clams, scrub clean if necessary. Discard broken or ones that don’t close. 
  2. Bring a pot of water to a boil, then cook the pasta according to package instructions. 
  3. While cooking pasta, heat 2-3tsp oil in a skillet, sauté garlic over medium-high heat for 1-2 minutes, till golden. Add crushed red pepper, stir well.
  4. Optional: Add ‘nduja, stir-fry for around 15 seconds till fragrant.
  5. Add the clams and white wine, cover, and simmer until all the clams open, around 3-5 minutes. Discard any clams that don’t open.
  6. The pasta should be just shy of al dente at this point. Transfer drained pasta to the skillet with clams. Add parsley and black pepper to taste, toss to mix.
  7. Transfer cooked clams to a plate, let the pasta absorb the juice. Once liquid is reduced and pasta is cooked to your liking, taste and add salt, turn off the heat. 
  8. Return clams to the skillet, add lemon zest to taste, mix well and serve immediately.


  • Normally pasta is cooked in salted water. You probably don’t need salt, as seafood will be a little salty.
  • Clam cooking time may vary depending on size
  • Add pasta cooking water to skillet if there is not enough liquid remained, after transferring pasta to the skillet.
  • Adjust amount of crushed red pepper according to your preference.

Garnish the dish with additional lemon zest, and grated Parmesan, if desired.

The ‘nduja / hot Italian sausage brings more complexity to the taste profile, while lemon zest adds refreshing aroma to balance out the spiciness. Those little twists definitely make a traditional pasta dish more interesting.

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