Spaghetti with Clams and Parsley- a True Italian Recipe

A plate of spaghetti with clams and tomatoes.

Spaghetti with clams is the ultimate dish for seafood lovers. Spaghetti with clams not only belongs to the Neapolitans but to the whole area overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Everyone has their own recipe: With or without vegetables, with or without tomatoes, with or without bottarga, or salted, cured fish roe (poor man’s caviar). Among all the countless variations, I have chosen the most classic, the easiest, and most delicious one to make. 

A pan full of spaghetti with clams and bread.

Many dishes remind me of childhood memories which were as sweet as honey

I still can remember well those magical moments when school ended, and my grandparents and I happily headed toward the Adriatic coast with a car full of luggage. Even though the landscape was not very charming there, the food was amazing, and all the people were very friendly. There were parties all the time with people dancing traditional music all day long and eating Piadina, stuffed flatbread with Parma ham, while noisily playing bocce, Italian lawn bowling, in mixed tournaments with players from 5 to 100 years old. There, you could always have fun from dawn until dusk.   

My grandpa taught me a lot of things—from swimming to piloting a small fishing boat. Even though he was known as a benevolent curmudgeon, he had a heart of gold. I adored him, and he loved me. 

When it was rainy or cloudy and we couldnt go to the beach, he took my grandma and me to the small port where the fishing boats were docked. The smell of fish was very strong but never annoying.  The Adriatic Sea was full of clams that I used to eat until I became seriously allergic to fish. This dish pays homage to my sweet memories; pasta with sauce that tastes like the sea, rich in love and family. 

A plate of spaghetti with clams and tomatoes.

Even though I cant eat this spaghetti, I am very good at preparing it: 

First of all, you need three ingredients for perfect results; plus, it’s easy and cheap to make. 

  • Clams come from the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean. This simple trick will help you make the right choice when buying them. Look at them carefully; they must be tightly closed. 
  • Parsley is a fundamental ingredient; it imparts freshness and flavor;  
  • Dry pasta, such as spaghetti or linguine, best fits this recipe. You should not use fresh or egg pasta. 

Spaghetti with Clams and Parsley

Coming straight from an Italian culinary tradition, Spaghetti with clams fits all the seasons of the year, from summer to winter. You need a few secrets to cook this easy recipe which wonderfully enshrines all the tastes of the sea. Fleshy clams, fresh parsley, and a little pasta starch make this spaghetti with clams a creamy, delicious delicacy. 
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword clams, spaghetti with clams
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes


  • 0.7 pounds of spaghetti (320g)
  • 1 pound of clams (454g)
  • 1 small bunch of parsley, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove 
  • extra virgin olive oil 
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • coarse salt
  • salt and pepper 
  • 1 tsp of chili pepper flakes to taste; use sparingly so not to overshadow the taste of the clams 5 ml
Servings 4 people


  • Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil, add salt and pasta; 
  • If you use frozen clams, follow the package instructions and prepare the sauce; 
  • If you use fresh clams, first prepare them as described below*. Put a large pan with its lid over high heat and pour in a little oil; 
  • Add the clams: they will open and release their tasty liquid; it will take a few minutes. Move the pan to spread the heat evenly; 
  • Remove the clams as soon as they open (even one at a time); they get chewy when overcooked;
  • Filter the clam cooking water (you may also use a coffee filter or a piece of cheese cloth) to get rid of any grains of sand;
  • In a clean pan, heat a little oil with the crushed garlic clove and add chili pepper flakes to taste. Simmer with white wine until it is reduced;
  • Add the filtered clam liquid and bring to a boil to thicken the sauce; 
  • Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the clams and the finely chopped parsley; 
  • Drain the pasta but save a cup of pasta water; 
  • Add pasta to the pan with the clams and toss until pasta is evenly coated; add a little pasta water if the sauce gets too thick; 
  • Generously sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper and serve hot. 

A few variations?

Some cherry tomatoes along with the clams add more color to your pasta dish. This is the typical Neapolitan recipe…delicious indeed! 

Bottarga, or cured, salted fish roe, definitely makes this recipe perfect according to a few gourmet  chefs.

Bottarga (Cured, salted fish roe) definitely makes this recipe perfect, according to a few gourmet chefs.

*Clams:  Operating instructions to avoid any risks 

Although they are bought fresh, clams must undergo a specific preparation before cooking. 

Buy the right product; you can buy frozen clams to avoid any problems, but fresh ones are definitely much tastier. They are sometimes sold individually, but you should opt for those in netted unbroken bags indicating the type, the production method, the harvesting location, date, and use-by date. Please, take this seriously.

  • When you buy clams far from the sea, they are alive and tightly closed in their shells. They will die in your pan over the heat, but only then will they open to give you their succulent fleshy content. So first wash them in cold running water and discard any open or broken clams. Dont hesitate to throw them away as they may be very harmful; 
  • Also, discard any clams which havent opened during the cooking process; they are bad. Throw them away. It’s not worth getting sick. 
Pasta with clams and tomatoes on a white plate.

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