Littleneck clams… one of the wonders of the sea. These little guys are native to the eastern shores of North and Central America and are delicious. Littlenecks are on the smaller end of the clam spectrum. They are full of salty flavor and are often served still in the shell, which makes a really cool presentation. With the exception of Maryland blue crabs, these are my husbands favorite seafood dish.
One of the best clam recipes around is linguine with clams. This dish is a breeze to make and might look plain… But it’s anything but boring. This is one of the most appetizing and tasty pastas that I make. The clams steam in their own liquid, creating a natural sauce that has an overwhelmingly intoxicating odor and is full of intense flavor. Small additions like red pepper flakes and garlic for spice, lemon juice for acidity, along with butter and olive oil for richness really enhance the clams while still allowing the full and true flavor to shine through.
I really enjoy making this. It goes back to one of my favorite methods of cooking… Creating simple recipes while using minimal ingredients. This straightforward way of cooking brings out the pureness of all the ingredients. The showstopper is reusing the leftover clam liquid. By using that liquid in the pasta sauce, the essence of the clams is spread throughout the entire dish, guaranteeing a full-flavored clam experience. Even the noodles end up full of briny and sweet clam flavor. I like to pick the meat from the majority of the shells and mix them back into the linguine. This ensures little clam bites in every mouthful. What seafood lover wouldn’t want that?!
Linguine with Clams
30 littleneck clams, scrubbed
3/4 lb linguine
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper, use sparingly
fresh parsley, chopped
Boil pasta water.
Scrub your clams with a firm brush.
Heat a large, high-rimmed sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add clams to the pan and put the lid on. You don’t need any liquid to cook these, they release their own liquid while cooking and steam themselves. The clams will usually open within 8-10 minutes. A glass lid helps keep an eye on things. It’s exciting when they start to pop open!
While the clams are cooking, add the linguine to the boiling water.
When all the clams have opened, remove from pan and pick meat from 20 of the clams, keeping 10 still in their shells. Drain the clam juice through a strainer, keeping the liquid.
Over medium heat, add olive oil, butter and garlic to the pan. Cook for about 2 minutes, until the garlic becomes fragrant. Pour 1/2 cup of clam water back into the pan. Add the picked meat, linguine, red pepper flakes, and fresh parsley to the pan. Mix until all ingredients are incorporated, adding more clam juice if needed. Finished with a dash of salt and pepper and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
Transfer to a serving bowl and add the remaining clams that are still in their shells. Serve immediately. Garlic bread goes well with this dish.