Growing up, this pantry version of Linguini and Clams was my absolute favorite meal. I'd even ask for it for birthday dinners, so you *know* I thought it was the jam. Now that I'm all grown up, it turns out I still love it, and not only because it tastes good. Made entirely from pantry items, this 20 minute pasta dish is a gee dang lifesaver.
When life comes at you hard, sometimes it's near impossible to have the energy or creativity to come up with a plan for dinner. During those times, having some trusty standbys on deck is crucial to kitchen success. Any tried and true recipe that can be made from only shelf stable ingredients and is kid friendly is one you should memorize stat. This easy recipe for linguini with clam sauce is all of those things.
Table of Contents
Ingredients and Substitutions
This simple recipe for linguini and clams requires just a handful of ingredients from your pantry. Here is everything you need:
Just a few notes on ingredients:
- Pasta shape - while linguini is the traditional choice for pasta with clam sauce, I'd argue that any long, skinny pasta should work. As a wee lass, angel hair pasta was my favorite. In retrospect that might've been because of its name, but capellini (a.k.a. angel hair) also cooks in just three minutes so its a great option if you're on a serious time crunch. Other options that will work are spaghetti, linguini, or bucatini.
- Fresh or dried pasta - either fresh or dried pasta will work just fine. Dried is cheaper (you can find it for less than a dollar a pound!) and is easy to store on a pantry shelf nearly indefinitely. That said, fresh pasta is delicious. Whenever there is a sale on packaged fresh pasta, I usually stock a few containers in the freezer for "special" occasions. Fresh pasta also cooks up faster than dried, so that's something to consider. And if you're game, you can absolutely make your own fresh pasta for cheap.
- Canned clams - I personally tend to reach for chopped canned clams when I shop. Not only are they heartier than the minced version, they are also on sale at Costco now (hooray!!). That said, use minced if you prefer smaller, or whole if you like them larger. They'll all do the trick!
- Half n Half - while I haven't yet found a shelf stable half n half to keep on hand, I always keep both milk and cream in the pantry. I generally opt for single size milks since I don't really drink it, but you can also find quart containers if you prefer. Trader Joe's almost always carries shelf stable cream as well, so I usually grab a few boxes for emergency cooking. Oh, and if you didn't know? Half n half is ½ milk and ½ cream. Makes sense, right?
The Extras - if you want to turn this pantry meal into a fancy affair, a few extra ingredients can make a big difference. While these are certainly delicious additions, they are not strictly necessary.
- White wine: I always keep a box of each white and red wine in the pantry for cooking. Just a half cup of white wine adds another layer of flavor to the sauce.
- Spice: Since Joe and I dig spicy foods, red pepper flakes are a natural addition to the clam sauce.
Toppings: To top it all off? You can either go with:
- Parmesan (I prefer a wedge of fresh cheese over the shakable kind) or some
- Quick garlic breadcrumbs (panko + Johnny's Garlic Seasoning and Spread + olive oil toasted in a pan)
How to Make Pasta with Clam Sauce
Bring a stockpot of salted water to a rolling boil and cook your pasta according to package directions. Note: If there is a time range, cook it on the shorter end of the spectrum, as the pasta will continue to cook when the hot sauce is added.
TIP: Be sure to reserve a cup of pasta cooking water when you drain your noodles. You may not need to use the whole thing, but pasta water is gold when you're making pasta sauce!
How to Make Creamy White Clam Sauce
This easy pasta sauce takes just 15 minutes to cook, and only requires that you chop a single onion. Now that's what I call a weeknight WINNER.
First, heat a few glugs of olive oil over medium heat in a sauté pan. Once it's shimmering, add the diced onions and a pinch of salt. Sauté for 3-4 minutes, until the onions are mostly translucent at the edges and are quite soft.
TIP: Save yourself a little time (and tears) and use frozen, chopped onions to get dinner on the table pronto.
Add the wine (if using) and reduce by half.
Add the clams with their juices and your herbs/spices, then simmer for another 3-4 minutes.
Pour the half and half into the mix, stir, then simmer for about 3 minutes.
Once the sauce is ready, pour it into the stockpot where you cooked your pasta. Add the cooked pasta in with it, and stir. If you have the patience, allow it to rest for about 5 minutes with a lid on. Come back to stir, adding pasta water as necessary to make it silky and creamy.
Serving and Storing
Plate up, being sure to scoop a few of the errant clams and onions on the top of your bowl and garnish with a crack of freshly ground pepper. Either dig right in, or dress things up with a fresh grating of parmesan or a scoop of easy garlic panko breadcrumbs for crunch.
Linguini and clams plays very nicely with a side green salad, a hunk of crusty bread (or garlic bread!) or a glass of white wine. It will also do very nicely all on its own. Enjoy!
If you have any leftovers, they should keep well for up to a week in the fridge. NOTE: If you didn't use all of the pasta cooking water when assembling the dish, add it to the pasta before putting it into containers to refrigerate.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you're doing the whole keto/low carb thing, there is no better substitute for pasta than Palmini. Made from hearts of palm, these yummy "noodles" will take on just about any flavor you throw at them without giving a flavor of their own. They are a bit pricey, but the bright side is you just have to open a can, drain them and dump them into the sauce.
If you opt to use palmini, you're not going to have any pasta water to help you thicken up the sauce. You can either opt to simmer the sauce down to a thicker consistency, or take the shortcut of adding a slurry of about ¼-1/2 teaspoon of cornstarch or arrowroot powder with a tablespoon of water to the sauce and cooking for an extra minute or two to thicken.
While traditional pasta with clam sauce calls for linguini, I'm of the opinion that any long, skinny noodle will do the trick. Angel hair (a.k.a. capellini), spaghetti, and bucatini all fit the bill. Don't stress yourself out! This is supposed to be an easy, fuss free meal.
Sure! I generally make Linguini and Clams when I don't know what else to cook, so it isn't really a go-to make ahead meal for me. That said, Joe and I can never get through a pound of pasta by ourselves in just one night. The leftovers are quite delicious, and I often eat them for lunch the next day.
TIP: If you didn't use all of the pasta water you set to the side before putting up your leftovers, toss it in before you do. Pasta has a tendency to soak in a lot of the sauce when it gets cold, and the pasta water helps to keep the leftovers nice and creamy when you reheat them.
Cooked pasta and white clam sauce should keep in the fridge for up to a week. I haven't tried freezing it, but if you do, let me know how it turns out by commenting below!
Don't fret. While using a spoon to open a can is a little tedious, I have used it myself in a pinch. Check out this how-to guide to see how it's done.
Need more pantry inspired eats? Check out these other easy recipes using what you already have on hand:
- Pantry Sweet Potato and Salmon Cakes
- Banana Apricot Upside Down Cake | Easily Adaptable Cake Mix Hack
- Easiest Fruit Crumble
If you tried this easy recipe for pantry Linguini and Clams, let me know how it turned out by commenting below!
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Pasta with White Clam Sauce
- 1 lb Pasta any long, skinny variety will work: capellini, spaghetti, linguini or bucatini
- 1 C Pasta Cooking Water reserve, may not need all of it.
- 1-2 glugs Olive Oil
- 1 Yellow Onion diced
- ½ C White Wine optional
- 2 cans Clams preferably chopped, with their juice
- 1 teaspoon Dried Parsley
- 1 teaspoon Dried Thyme
- ½-1 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes optional
- 1 C Half n Half or ½ cup each cream and milk
- Kosher Salt and Pepper to taste
- Bring a stockpot of salted water to a rolling boil and cook your pasta according to package directions. Note: If there is a time range, cook it on the shorter end of the spectrum, as the pasta will continue to cook when the hot sauce is added. TIP: Be sure to reserve a cup of pasta cooking water when you drain your noodles. You may not need to use the whole thing, but pasta water is gold when you're making pasta sauce!
- Heat a few glugs of olive oil over medium heat in a sauté pan. Once it's shimmering, add the diced onions and a pinch of salt. Sauté for 3-4 minutes, until the onions are mostly translucent at the edges and are quite soft.
- Add the wine (if using) and reduce by half.
- Add the clams with their juices and your herbs/spices, then simmer for another 3-4 minutes.
- Pour the half and half into the mix, stir, then simmer for about 3 minutes.
- Once the sauce is ready, pour it into the stockpot where you cooked your pasta. Add the cooked pasta in with it, and stir. If you have the patience, allow it to rest for about 5 minutes with a lid on. Come back to stir, adding pasta water as necessary to make it silky and creamy.
- Season with salt and pepper as needed. Enjoy!
- For the best keto version of this pasta dish, I recommend using Palmini noodles. Since you won't have pasta water to help thicken the sauce, add a slurry of ¼-1/2 teaspoon cornstarch or arrowroot with 1 tablespoon water in final cooking step. Cook for an additional 1-2 minutes.
- Optional toppings include quick garlic breadcrumbs (1 tablespoon oil or butter +½ C panko + 1 teaspoon Johnny's Garlic Spread and Seasoning toasted in a pan until golden) or freshly grated parmesan cheese.
- TIP: Save yourself a little time (and tears) and use frozen, chopped onions to get dinner on the table pronto.