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

May 18, 2021
7 Ratings
Photo by Ty Mecham
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

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. I also added 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. —Amanda Hesser

What You'll Need
  • 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.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Judy
  • Rhonda35
  • Amelia McCann
    Amelia McCann
  • Amanda Hesser
    Amanda Hesser
Amanda Hesser

Recipe by: Amanda Hesser

Before starting Food52 with Merrill, I was a food writer and editor at the New York Times. I've written several books, including "Cooking for Mr. Latte" and "The Essential New York Times Cookbook." I played myself in "Julie & Julia" -- hope you didn't blink, or you may have missed the scene! I live in Brooklyn with my husband, Tad, and twins, Walker and Addison.

10 Reviews

jjll May 18, 2021
Never made clams at home by myself before but wow it was easier than I thought! I love linguini & clams so this hit all the right spots. Used fresh lemon instead of preserved per other user review and it came out great. Will definitely be making this again!
Judy April 17, 2020
My husband entered icy waters of Cape Cod to clam this week, and while during COVID I had no parsley or fresh basil- I did have preserved lemons, a little wine, shallot and garlic! This may have been our favorite dinner during the pandemic. Thank you Amanda!!
Amanda H. April 18, 2020
Like the way you riffed on the recipe with what you had -- sounds great!
Debbie February 14, 2018
This was absolutely delicious!!! Thank you Amanda :)
Amanda H. February 20, 2018
Thanks for your note -- so happy you liked it!
Rhonda35 April 24, 2017
This was SO good! I just happened to have a jar of preserved lemons that I made a few weeks ago - and, although this recipe would be delicious with lemon juice alone, the preserved lemon really made it special. For people without preserved lemons in their fridge, try zesting the lemon before you halve it and add the lemon zest at the point where the recipe calls for adding the preserved lemon. I needed a bit more liquid, so I added some pasta water (which I'd reserved earlier in the cooking process.) Good stuff, Amanda!
Amanda H. April 24, 2017
Thanks -- and thanks for reminding me of this recipe, as I just bought preserved lemons to make this pasta dish: https://food52.com/recipes/26531-zuni-s-pasta-with-preserved-tuna Glad I can now make this clam one as well!
Amelia M. June 8, 2016
Where does one get preserved lemons? Or make them, if that's a thing?
Jo August 4, 2016
You may be able to find preserved lemons in a middle eastern shop or one that sells middle eastern food/ingredients.
You can make your own preserved lemons if you can't find them, it just takes a while for them to mature - anything from 4 weeks or more, but they last a long time.
There's lots of recipes online. Some recipes are very simple and some include spices like pepper and cinnamon.
You basically cut whole lemons almost into quarters (leave one end whole so that the quarters are still connected), rub salt into the quarters, open lemons up and pack them tightly into a sterilised jar with extra salt and top up with fresh lemon juice. You then leave them in a warm spot to ripen, shaking the jar regularly.
When you want to use the a lemon (or part of one), you'll need to rinse it and remove and discard the pulp before using the skin.
PHIL June 8, 2016
this dish never disappoints . I like to mix in some of the clams chopped up already too so I can get more clam goodness in there. I like the preserved lemon idea