Amanda & Merrill

Spaghetti with Clams, Parsley, Garlic, and Lemon (x2)

June  4, 2010

Spaghetti with Clams, Parsley, Garlic, and Lemon (x2)

- Amanda

In the summertime, I like a bowl of spaghetti with clams for dinner. And I like the clams to bathe in a sauce of olive oil, parsley, enough garlic and red pepper flakes to get your attention, and a dousing of lemon juice so the flavors feel crisp. But it's sometimes difficult to get enough lemon flavor without watering down the sauce. I solved this problem by adding slivers of preserved lemon, which grant the sauce the powerful fragrance of lemons, but barely a drop of juice -- think of it as lemon squared.

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Spaghetti with Clams, Parsley, Garlic, and Lemon (x2)

Serves 4

  • Salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
  • 2 small shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 24 littleneck clams
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1 cup chopped flatleaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped preserved lemon rind
  • 1 lemon, halved

1. Fill a large pot with water, salt it like mad, and place it over high heat to bring to a boil while you prepare the clams.

2. Pour the oil into a deep, large saucepan. Place over medium heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the garlic and shallots and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes (if you’re sensitive to heat, start with 1/8 teaspoon). Add the clams, cover the pot and raise the heat to medium high. If the pan is too dry, add a splash of wine. Cook until the clams open, and remove them as they do; transfer to a plate. (At this point, you can decide whether or not to serve the pasta with the clams in their shells or removed from them.). Set the saucepan off the heat until just before serving.

3. Add the spaghetti to the boiling water and cook until al dente, about 6 minutes.

4. Drain the spaghetti and add it to the clam sauce. Set over medium heat. Toss together, adding the parsley, basil and preserved lemon. Squeeze in lemon juice to taste. (Adjust the salt if needed.) Spread the spaghetti on a large serving platter, scatter the clams on top and pour over any juices that have collected on the plate holding the clams. Serve it forth.

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NakedBeet June 8, 2010
I can't wait to try this; I love the assertive flavor profile here.
Amanda H. June 8, 2010
Let me know what you think.
lechef June 8, 2010
Funny that you just put this up...but I guess it's the season! I just posted my recipe for scallops and spaghetti on my blog:
Amanda H. June 8, 2010
Great -- thanks for letting us know!
Rhonda35 June 6, 2010
Started out to make this for dinner tonight and somehow it morphed into spaghetti with a red sauce! Made the sauce from canned tomatoes, white wine, shrimp, rockfish, basil, parsley, garlic, red pepper flakes, olive oil and preserved lemon. So, there were a few elements of the above there, but, honestly, I would have to say I completely failed in the "following a recipe" department!
Amanda H. June 7, 2010
F for recipe following, but A+ for recipe creating. Hope you'll upload your version to the site!
pierino June 6, 2010
I make something almost identical to this myself. But I try to use the very smallest clams I can find. At the fishmarket in my soon to be former hometown I'm allowed to pick live manila clams out of the tank myself, so I seldom end up with dead ones, or ones with broken shells. Same thing with mussels. Why use imported green lip mussels when mussel farming is one of the best, most sustainable forms of aquaculture? You just attach seed to ropes and watch them grow like like a chia pet. Back to clams, I love tiny ones from Maine or from Puget Sound. Cold, cold water makes for good mollusks.
Amanda H. June 7, 2010
Good point.
Bob Y. June 5, 2010
As others have said, this is one of my favorite pastas. Living in the CA desert however, I don't trust the clams I see in my markets (many open shells, etc.) I was interested in the commentator who asked about shrimp. Since they cook so quickly, would one perhaps saute them with the garlic, etc., remove them, and then add to the finished dish? Since we sometimes see acceptable mussels, I would assume the original recipe would work by just substituting mussels for clams? Thanks in advance.
Amanda H. June 5, 2010
That's exactly what I'd do with shrimp. And mussels could be done just like the clams, only they'll open more quickly. Let me know if you try either!
amysarah June 5, 2010
Spaghetti alle vongole is also one of my fave summer dishes - especially made with the tiny, sweet/briny cockles they sell (inexpensively!) at my local Asian fish market. I've used fresh lemon zest to brighten it before, but never thought of using preserved - interesting idea. I feel compelled to confess: I know it's a crime punishable by law in Italy, but I really like a little good Parm Reg grated on top of this dish (but swear I refrained from asking for it when served the best version I've ever tasted in Venice.) Not enough to overwhelm the clams, just a touch. In my defense I cite Lidia's classic Clams Oreganata - which I also often make - which includes Parm...and has a very similar flavor profile/ingredients. So, that's my story and I'm sticking to it. Anyway - look forward to trying your version soon!
Amanda H. June 5, 2010
No crime in my book -- enjoy!
I make Spaghetti alle Vongole all the time at home and never once thought to use preserved lemons. Wonderful idea and can't wait to try your recipe! I'm thinking this is tomorrow night's dinner. Many Thanks :-)
Amanda H. June 5, 2010
Great -- hope you like it.
thirschfeld June 4, 2010
I love this recipe
Amanda H. June 5, 2010
gabrielaskitchen June 4, 2010
I won't be waiting outside Celeste for a table anytime soon! Same as MrsWheelbarrow I've never thought of making spaghetti alle vongole at home... maybe because I'm a girl from New Mexico where shellfish is only eaten at Red Lobster (hehe). I'm on the East Coast now, time to cook my first batch of clams, don't ya think?
Amanda H. June 4, 2010
Yes, do try cooking clams -- I think you'll be delighted by how easy they are to deal with. One tip: use a vegetable brush to clean the shells (they can be muddy).
MrsWheelbarrow June 4, 2010
Perfect way to use preserved lemons. Thank you for this great recipe. For some unknown reason, I've never thought to make this at home. Now, I certainly will.
Amanda H. June 4, 2010
Yes, and you can use more or less than I call for. I kept it fairly conservative.
mrslarkin June 4, 2010
This sounds great Amanda! Thx for the recipe. Wish I had a bowlful right now. :)
Amanda H. June 4, 2010
Good for hot weather, with a crisp white.
aargersi June 4, 2010
LOVE THIS - and I have my last jar of preserved lemons (homemade) staring at me ... perfect!!!
Amanda H. June 4, 2010
TasteFood June 4, 2010
I love spaghetti alle vongole. I haven't had it before with basil, and the idea of incorporating preserved lemon is brilliant. I look forward to making this!
Amanda H. June 4, 2010
Thank you!
drbabs June 4, 2010
Great recipe! We don't eat clams (allergies), but this would work great for shrimp, don't you think?
Amanda H. June 4, 2010
absolutely -- and fish, too!