clam sauce over linguini with red pepper flakes served


White Clam Sauce served with Linguini

A restaurant favorite you can make at home

Clam sauce served with linguini is a classic Italian pasta dish and found on many restaurant menus. It’s a popular favorite because it is delicious. This recipe makes a white clam sauce that is just as good as any restaurant, if not better. And while all our recipes are economical, you can make four servings at home with this recipe for less than you would pay for one serving in a restaurant. You can savor the sauce as you savor the savings too. Plus this is one of the easiest meals you will ever make.

Our easy clam sauce recipe takes less than a half hour to get to the table, it’s guest worthy and it is scrumptious. That’s a lot of good reasons to give this recipe a try.

If you have never had white clam sauce with linguini it is definitely worth trying. It is a basic olive oil and garlic based pasta sauce made even better with the addition of easy to find bottled clam juice and canned chopped clams. I had never tried this Italian classic until we were adding this recipe to the blog. Now it’s one of my easy “go to” weekday meals. It’s that good.

Here’s what YOU WILL NEED:

white clam sauce ingredients
3 cans of chopped clams (6.5 ounce each)
1 bottle clam juice (8 ounces)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 stick butter
1/4 cup dry white wine (optional but recommended)
*see note below about a great substitute
5 cloves fresh garlic minced
1 teaspoon each: salt, pepper, dried basil, dried oregano
If using fresh basil and oregano instead of dried, use 1 tablespoon of each
fresh or dried linguini
Recommended additions to finished dish:
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, a squeeze of fresh lemon and/or crushed red pepper flakes

About the ingredients

Chopped clams and clam juice

You should be able to find chopped clams (not minced) and clam juice in your local grocery store. They are usually found in the section with tuna fish.


The dried herbs I am using are my own homegrown herbs. They look typical sitting in the dish in the ingredients shot, but when they hydrate they swell up. Homegrown dried oregano leaves are sometimes so small they remain in tact even after you crush them. You will see what I mean when we get to pictures of the cooked sauce in the skillet and the finished dish.

In general, quick cooking recipes make the most of fresh herbs. And this sauce is no exception. It is great with fresh basil and oregano. If using fresh herbs use 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh basil and 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano in place of the dried herbs.

I have some posts about growing and using your own herbs, If you want to know more, check out Back Porch Herb Garden, Cooking with Herb and It’s Drying Time Again.


We use regular salted butter for this recipe. I left the wax paper wrap on the butter to show you something you may not have noticed before. A stick of butter is equal to 8 tablespoons. The wrapper has a marker for each tablespoon so you don’t have to measure how much you need. It’s a huge time saver! Sometimes we can overlook the most obvious things because we just never thought to look closer at an everyday item. The measure markers on butter are a good example of that.

Cooking with wine

When I eat out, I look at the ingredients listed for a dish on the menu before I decide what I’m going to order. At some point I realized that pasta dishes made with white wine were often my favorites. Through trial and error I found I was never going to be able to make my restaurant favorites at home without adding the white wine, so I started experimenting. I soon discovered it’s just another ingredient. You don’t have to have formal culinary training to use wine in your everyday cooking. Especially white wine. And it makes such a difference! White wine with melted butter, garlic and olive oil, is flavor magic.

When you cook with white wine you don’t get the taste of wine or alcohol in your finished dish. White wine adds just a touch of sweetness. It’s subtle but makes a huge difference. In this recipe like many others, the dish is simply is not as good without the wine.

This recipe is a perfect one to start venturing into using white wine in cooking.

White wine = Dry Vermouth

Years ago I heard Julia Child say that dry vermouth is a good substitute for dry white wine in recipes. I don’t know all that much about wines, so using dry vermouth as my “go to” for cooking, works for me. It’s relatively inexpensive, has a twist off cap and stores in your kitchen cabinet for a long time. I use it enough in my cooking to have it on hand as a staple.

If you want to try using wine for the first time with this recipe there is an alternative to using the real thing or dry vermouth. While at the grocery store, you can pick up a small bottle of cooking wine. I know that every chef on the planet will tell you that it is a lousy alternative that you shouldn’t bother with, but I have used it and it’s worked just fine for me. There may be a slight difference in taste, but not overly significant for an everyday meal. If you go on to start using wine more often in recipes, you will find that the dry vermouth is much cheaper in the long run and you don’t get all the additives you get in the cooking wines at the grocery store.

This is WHAT TO DO:

Timing is everything

You can use dried or fresh linguini for this recipe. You could use another pasta but there’s a reason why white clam sauce and linguini is a classic pairing. It’s perfect for this dish.

If you are using dried linguini, the pasta is going to take as long to cook as the sauce. The sauce only takes 15 minutes on the stove, so start the linguini and sauce at the same time so neither is sitting cooked on the stove waiting for the other to be done.

I use fresh pasta in this recipe. You can find fresh pasta in the the refrigerated section of the grocery store. It cooks in 2-3 minutes, so when I am adding the clams to the sauce I start boiling my pasta.

You will have enough sauce for 16 ounces (1 pound) of fresh linguini or1 pound of dried linguini.

Adding pasta water to sauces

We are going to be using some pasta water in this sauce. This is a common practice.

You should always salt the water well when you are boiling pasta. While pasta is boiling, starch leeks out into the salted water. The salt and starch in the water adds flavor and body to a sauce.

When you are going to use pasta water in your sauce, you usually don’t drain the pasta, or if you do you reserve some of the water before you drain. In this case we are going to take the linguini right from the water and add it to the sauce. Along with the pasta some of the salty pasta water is coming along with it. That will deliver enough of the water for this sauce.

Prepare the ingredients

Drain the juice from the 3 cans of clams into a small bowl or a measuring cup.

Put the chopped clams aside for now. They don’t get added until later.

Mince the garlic cloves. Mincing means to cut in very small pieces. In this case we are mincing because we want our garlic to be in every single bite and not larger pieces of it here and there.

Start cooking

Add the olive oil, butter and garlic to a 10 or 12 inch skillet. Cook on medium heat until the butter is melted and the garlic has softened.

Put the butter, oil and garlic in the skillet and let the butter melt on medium heat.

garlic in melted butter and olive oil

Add the clam juice from the cans and the bottle, salt, pepper, basil, oregano and wine. Don’t add the clams yet.

Add all the rest of the ingredients (except for the chopped clams you have put aside) into the skillet and simmer for 15 minutes.

Cover and simmer

Cover the skillet and simmer for 15 minutes to incorporate all the flavors.

After the sauce has simmered, the herbs have rehydrated. As you can see, now the sauce looks quite different.

clam sauce after simmering for 15 minutes the herbs are rehydrated

If you want to taste the difference between homegrown dried herbs and store bought, you can take a short cut to growing them yourself. You can make your own dried herbs by buying fresh herbs in the produce section and letting them air dry. A basket is good for this because it let’s air in from all angles. You can read more about drying herbs in It’s Drying Time Again, or growing your own herbs in Back Porch Herb Garden. You can find out more about using fresh vs dried herbs in Cooking with Herb.

Add the clams

After simmering you can add the chopped clams that you put aside. You are just bringing them up to temperature. They are already fully cooked. Clams get rubbery if they are overcooked. That is why we are adding them at the end.

Boiling the pasta

Because we are going to be adding some pasta water to the sauce for flavor and consistency, I am going to use less water than usual when boiling my pasta. That will give me a higher concentration of starch in the water which in turn will help me thicken the sauce a bit.

a saucepan with fresh pasta boiling in water

Adding the pasta to the sauce

Take the cooked linguini from the pasta water and add it to the sauce. By taking the pasta from the saucepan without draining it first, we are bringing some of the salty pasta water over with the pasta. Stir it all together for a couple of minutes to let the linguini soak up some of the sauce.

clam sauce over linguini with red pepper flakes served

Clam Sauce with Linguini

Clam sauce with Linguini, just as good as you get at a restaurant, can be made in just minutes at home with canned clams and bottled clam juice.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Course Dinner, Lunch, Main Course
Cuisine American, Mediterranean
Servings 4
Calories 571 kcal


  • 3 6.5 ounce cans clams canned chopped not minced
  • 1 8 ounce clam juice bottled
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons butter ½ stick
  • 5 cloves garlic finely minced
  • ¼ cup dry white wine or dry vermouth (see note in text)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon basil or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh
  • 1 teaspoon oregano or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh
  • 1 pound linguini fresh or dried


Prepare Ingredients

  • Drain the clam juice in the 3 cans of chopped clams into a cup or small bowl. Keep the chopped clams aside. They will be added just before serving.
  • Mince the garlic cloves.

Cooking Instructions

  • Add butter, olive oil and chopped garlic to a 10 or 12 inch skillet. On medium heat melt the butter and cook until garlic is softened, but not browned.
  • Add all the clam juice, herbs, salt, pepper and wine to the skillet. Do not add the chopped clams.
  • Cover the skillet and simmer on medium low heat for 15 minutes to incorporate the flavors.
  • Cook the linguini according to package directions while the clam sauce is simmering. Time the pasta so it is done when the sauce is done.
  • After the sauce has simmered for 15 minutes, add the chopped clams to the sauce for another 2 minutes. Remove from heat. The clams will get rubbery if you start cooking them. They are fully cooked in the can. You are just heating them up in the sauce.
  • Add the linguini to the clam sauce and mix to incorporate the sauce and pasta.
  • Serve immediately


Serve with red pepper flakes, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and/or freshly grated parmesan cheese. Any or all of these enhance the mild flavor profile of this dinner recipe. 


Calories: 571kcalCarbohydrates: 88gProtein: 16gFat: 16gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 2mgSodium: 607mgPotassium: 313mgFiber: 4gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 40IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 60mgIron: 2mg
Keyword 30 minutes or less, clam sauce made with canned clams, easy clam sauce, italian pasta sauce, quick seafood meal, quick weekday meals, seafood pasta dish, white clam sauce,
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!


  1. OMG absolutely delish ! Thank you two for the inspiration, made it on a whim because i happend to have all the ingredients and the pic you posted was killing me !!!. I had whole baby clams but they were fine. Big hit ! 🙂 Keep the ideas coming ! I’m eating as i Type 🙂 Patty Woolf/Cook

    1. How generous of you to share such a glowing review. Thanks so much. It is crazy easy to make. I hope you find others as we get them posted that you like just as much. Ricky has a killer recipe for shrimp with pea pods over pasta. Just as good, just as easy. We can get that up for you soon.

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top