Spaghetti with clams - step-by-step instructions

Spaghetti alle vongole! What heaven. If ever there was a dish so worthy of the smiles even its mention brings, this is it.

And if ever there was a dish so often a disappointment. As with all simple things, the errors of the cook are transparent in the dish – but particularly here, where overcooked clams, or poor seasoning, or insufficient oil, or overcooked (or undercooked) pasta, will dash the hopes and dreams you had when ordering it.

Whilst I’m at it, note to reader: the clams should be still in their shells, in the pasta – taking them out means (a) a longer interval between when they were perfectly cooked, and when they were served and (b) less fun for the eater, who should be licking their fingers throughout.

Fear not – getting it right is at least as easy as getting it wrong, and once you know how, you’ll marvel that others ever get it wrong.

My trick is (a) lots of oil – half in the cooking and half at the end (b) clams, garlic and oil go in to a hot dry pan all at the same time and (c) no wine. Oh, and (d): really, really good clams and really, really good spaghetti.

You will need:

A pot to boil pasta in

A colander.

A wide frying pan or shallow casserole

Your pack serves 2 a main and contains:

Spaghetti (made by Gentile in Gragnano)

A box of clams

A small tub of parsley, sliced garlic and chilli flakes

A small tub of olive oil


Have ready a big pot of boiling, well-salted (10g/litre) water

  • Put the spaghetti on to boil – they take 8 minutes
  • Chop the parsley and set aside
  • Put half of the oil in with the clams, garlic & chilli
  • 4 minutes before the pasta is cooked, set a wide frying pan or casserole over a high heat
  • When its smokin’ hot, add – all at once – the clams, garlic, chilli and oil
  • Shake the pan a bit. Depending on the width of the pan relative to the volume of clams you may want to cover it for a minute or two, but the goal is for the clams to all open, and their juices to reduce to a scant couple of tablespoonsful.
  • It is ok to cover the pan for some of the time or to add a dash of pasta cooking water, if it gets too dry. Conversely, if there is what looks like a puddle of water in the bottom, crank up the heat and evaporate it
  • When the pasta is al dente – just a tad less cooked than you like – drain it, reserving some more of the water just in case
  • Add the pasta to the clams, along with the chopped parsley and remaining oil
  • Cook over the heat, stirring to coat the pasta and thicken the sauce.
  • You can still adjust it by adding water (if too dry), oil (if unsure), or cooking longer together (if too wet or the pasta too crunchy for you)
  • Taste for seasoning, and serve immediately

ENJOY! This is heaven on a plate, and doesn’t need anything! Best with a simple white, like a trebbiano, falanghina or greco di tufo

ALLERGENS: all packs prepared in a mixed kitchen, we cannot guarantee the absence of any allergen. All packs of this dish contain shellfish (molluscs), garlic and gluten