Spaghetti with Canned Clams
Canned clams are a hidden gem in my pantry and you might want to stock up on them, too, so you can make this flavorful pantry pasta with clam sauce.
This is one of those recipes I had never considered sharing on this space until now. I try to keep recipes as authentic and fresh as possible but this is a different time. These days I’m grateful for Instacart deliveries; gone are the multiple mid-week grocery runs to pick up last-minute ingredients. I can still get fresh clams delivered from my neighborhood market down the road but after taking inventory of my pantry recently and seeing the canned clams hidden in the back corner I decided they were worth featuring today.
I would guess that canned protein would belong in two camps depending on the type or where we grew up. They’d either be “Yum, my pantry is never without it” or “Yuck, I’d never eat that.”
Canned tuna, canned salmon, sardines and anchovies (of course) were pantry staples for my parents, as were Spam, corned beef and canned liver paté since I grew up in a Filipino household. I don’t stock the last three in my pantry (not because I no longer like them but because all the sodium scares me these days) but I will admit to succumbing to once-a-year cravings.
The list is different for everyone, I imagine. Canned chicken? I didn’t become aware of its existence until my late 20s and it remains one item I hesitate to try. In my early 20s, on the other hand, I was introduced to canned clams by a friend in San Francisco who prepared it for me and it’s become a pantry regular since.
Linguine with clams is one of my top three favorite pasta dishes (my recipe here) and I use fresh clams 90% of the time. But on the occasion a craving hits and it happens to be Sunday when my local market doesn’t receive a delivery of fresh shellfish, this version happens instead.
I get it if you are reading this post with a sour look on your face but trust me that you might like it just as much as your fresh clam recipe. Although the main ingredient comes from a can, the clams get a huge fresh boost from the rest of the items on the list. This pasta is not short on garlic, has just enough butter to give it richness, it’s dressed up with a splash of wine with a squeeze of lemon juice for brightness and tossed with a good amount of Italian parsley. So just when you start to think you’ve compromised your standards by resorting to canned clams, give this one a try. In fact, make extra like I do. The abundance of clam juice loaded with briny shellfish goodness is absorbed by the pasta overnight, making it a treat for lunch the next day. Trust me; your taste buds might agree.
Spaghetti with Canned Clams
- 3 6.5 oz cans Chopped clams (I use the Snow's Bumble Bee brand), meat and clam juice separated
- 1 pound spaghetti (or linguine)
- 8 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
- pinch crushed red peppers (optional)
- 2-3 tablespoons butter
- olive oil (from few tablespoons or more)
- 1/4-1/3 cup white wine or rosé (optional)
- 1/3-1/2 cup pasta water
- juice of half lemon
- 1/4-1/2 cup chopped parsley
- salt and pepper
- 3 anchovy fillets for extra savory flavor
- 1 chopped serrano chili for mild heat
- toasted bread crumbs (for added texture in place of Parmigiano-Reggiano)
Drain the chopped clams reserving the clam juice and set aside. You will yield about 1 1/2 cups clam juice.
Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta to al dente(one to two minutes under time recommended in package). Reserve about 1/2 cup of the pasta water right before you drain the pasta in case you need it for the sauce.
In a large skillet, heat the butter and a few tablespoons olive oil to medium. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper if using. (See Note) Cook for four to five minutes or until the garlic slices start to turn golden.
Add the wine, turn the heat up to medium high and allow one to two minutes for the alcohol to cook off. Add the clam juice (Not the chopped clams), the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Once the liquid starts boiling reduce the heat to medium. Check your pasta. Reserve your pasta water and drain. If your clam sauce is done and your pasta is not, turn off the heat until your pasta is ready.
When the pasta is done, drain and add to the skillet with the clam sauce. Add the chopped clams and chopped parsley and toss. It will seem like a lot of sauce but it will thicken and be absorbed by the pasta over time. You shouldn't need more liquid but if you feel it needs it, add some of the pasta water a little at a time. I like to add extra drizzles of olive oil before serving. Taste and adjust according to your liking for more salt and/or lemon juice. Plate and serve.
If you’re using anchovies and/or Serrano chilies, you will add them at the same time as the garlic. The anchovies will dissolve after a few minutes and add extra flavor. You won’t need to add salt if you use anchovies.