[123] Spaghetti with Clams

We actually made this recipe from Cooking for Two way back in February. At least, that’s what the date stamp on the photos say.

I don’t remember much about it. Other than enjoying it, I recall we had a moment or two of wondering if the clams were going to kill us. I don’t, however, remember why. Maybe typing it up will remind me. I hope so, or I’m going to panic making it a second time, and that won’t do.

Having rediscovered it, I think I am likely to make it again soon. Though, do clams have a “season” the way salmon and swordfish do? I don’t think so, but if they do, it might have to wait.

Boo to that. I like clams. I especially like that Seafood Watch says they’re never worse than a “best choice” “good alternative”.1 That makes my life easier. This is likely because they’re very low on the food chain, so even aquaculture of clams isn’t terribly intensive, but I’m not sure.

Clams? They’re pretty cool. I had to dissect a giant clam in biology lab once. They remained cool (and something I was willing to eat) even after that experience.


1/4 c olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (My photo tells me I may have forgotten this.)

2 oz pancetta, roughly chopped

1/2 c dry vermouth

1 lb small clams (We used little necks, and yes, I do remember that.)

6 oz dried spaghetti, cooked (Sometimes I weigh this & sometimes I just use this weird-spaghetti measure thing my mom gave me when I moved out of my parents’ house.)

1 c chopped arugula

2 tbsp grated Parmesan-Reggiano

1 tbsp unsalted butter (Chances I used salted? High.)


If you’re like me, you’re not actually any good at cooking the pasta first. So, start that while figuring out everything else.

Pick a pan with a lid that’s big enough to hold all the clams plus some liquid and such. Put that pan over high heat, and add the oil. Once the oil’s nice & hot, add the garlic and red pepper flakes and carefully cook until fragrant (they say ~10 seconds), then add the pancetta chunks. Stirring frequently to avoid burning, cook until the pancetta’s nice and crispy around the edges.

At this point, add the vermouth and briefly scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen any fond that’s there. Bring the liquid to a boil, then gently add the clams and cover. Cook until the clams have just started to open. They say this will be about five minutes, but I remember this being a vile lie and it taking way longer (and thus, us thinking all our clams had been dead and we were going to be ordering pizza). So, keep an eye on it.

Stir in everything else, and cook just long enough to wilt the arugula, then serve.

Cooking and Consumption Notes


Okay, it wasn’t the typing it up that reminded me why we thought maybe we shouldn’t eat it, but I do remember. To best know yourself, click on the “ingredients” photo above, and look at it on Flickr. When you are looking at a photo on Flickr (not the whole set, one specific photo), and you hover over it, there may be notes that will pop up. In this case, there are.

There’s a little chip out of the clamshell (incidentally the one we photographed). Now, here’s the thing. Shellfish can be dodgy, which makes me a little nervous in cooking. Why? Because I’m not the hottest cook, though it’s coming together for me more & more.

So, I know you’re not supposed to eat dead shellfish. That’s bad news, for sure. There are a few tricks to knowing if one of your tasty little clams is dead. First? Are there any that are open? Yes? Okay, tap ’em gently. The ones that close in response to that gentle tap are alive & thus should be safe. Discard any that don’t close – they’re probably dead. The next test is in cooking. Once you’re done cooking, any that don’t open were also dead. Throw them out, do not eat them.

That’s all I’ve ever known in eating shellfish. However, when preparing for this recipe, I recall reading somewhere that you ALSO shouldn’t eat any with broken shells. I didn’t really think about this until after I was cooking (but before everything was cooked). I thought about broken shells like, “cut in half” not like “chipped”. So, suddenly, I had all my clams in a pot, and I had no idea if everything was safe.

I tell you what, I’m glad every damn clam opened that night. Because if even one hadn’t opened, I would have wondered if it’s dead self had leaked toxic gross into my whole pot of pasta & I’d’ve thrown it out.

However, in the future, I’ll be a touch more cautious about what “break” means. Maybe someone who is more versed in the cooking & eating of shellfish will come & tell me if “a small hole in the shell, at the opening” is dangerous, generally speaking.

Of course, we were fine. All was well.


As I said, I’m going to have to make this again. And soon. I can’t tell you much about it’s consumption, because it’s been so dang long. However, I do recall really enjoying it, once I got over the fear of death. Painful death, I’m told.

So, yeah. It was tasty. Tasty enough to make again. And, also? Very pretty. That counts for something, right?

1 2015-03-18 Edit Note: When I wrote this post, clams were rated “best choice.” Today I noticed the URL was broken, and when I went to inspect, it appears they have fallen to merely guaranteed “good alternative.” While in here, I edited other parts of the code and made the book link an amazon affiliate link again.