Linguine with Red Clam Sauce

This is a classic pasta dish that’s simple to prepare. We used fresh littleneck clams, steamed them open in a little white wine, then added that broth to our marinara sauce for depth of flavor. The steaming method is an alternative to shucking, and as long you’re careful not to overcook them, the clams are just as tender and delicious. Fresh basil, oregano and parsley added to the sauce just before serving finish the dish perfectly. Served with a tossed salad and garlic bread for a complete meal.

Linguine with Red Clam Sauce

Linguine with Red Clam Sauce

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This classic pasta favorite is made with tender, sweet littleneck clams and fresh oregano, basil and parsley.


  • 6 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed and rinsed (see notes)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 10 ounces linguine
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons tomato paste, optional
  • 2 tablespoons chiffonade of fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped


  • Bring the 1/2 cup of water to a boil in a large pot with a lid. Add the wine and clams. Cover and cook just until the clams open, about 2 minutes. Remove the clams immediately and pour the broth into a separate bowl and reserve. Add water and salt to the pot and bring to a boil for the linguine.
  • If desired, set aside 4 to 6 clams per serving in their shells for presentation. Remove the remaining clams from their shells, chop roughly and set aside. Heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the garlic and onion. Sauté until light golden in color and stir in the reserved liquid from the clams. Bring to a simmer, then add the tomatoes and crushed red pepper. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If you feel the sauce is too thin, add some tomato paste at this point. Stir in the reserved chopped clams along with any liquid that may have accumulated, reduce the heat to low and cover.
  • Cook the linguine according to the package directions. Just before draining, ladle a little of the cooking water over the reserved clams in shells to warm them. Drain the pasta, divide between 4 serving plates and arrange the clams in shells around the outside.
  • Stir the basil, oregano and parsley into the sauce, then spoon over the pasta. Garnish with additional parsley if desired and serve immediately.

Tips for Making This Recipe

Recipe Notes:

Naturally, fresh clams make the best clam sauce, but top quality canned chopped clams can certainly be used in a pinch. You’ll need 2 6.5-ounce cans and about 1/2 cup of the broth that they’re packed in. The remaining broth can be frozen and used later for poaching fish or added to a fish stock.
We recommend Bar Harbor chopped Maine clams if you can get them. They have a good texture (not mushy like some brands) and sweet, briny flavor. They’re a little pricier, but worth the difference in our opinion.
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