Nigella Eats Everything

Writing on food and France

Spaghetti vongole

Many great spaghetti dishes are ready in under 15 minutes. Aside from a slow-cooked ragu or a Bolognese, a spaghetti dinner gives you little time to prepare yourself, whether that’s finishing an email, video game or conversation before it’s on the table, steaming its way into a gluey tangle. Carbonara, spaghetti aglio e olio (the one with garlic and olive oil), cacio e pepe (the other one with pecorino and black pepper) and spaghetti vongole (the one with clams, garlic and white wine) are as speedy to make as they are delicious to eat. Yet they all come with one small caveat.

spaghetti vongole

Before we get too excited about quick mid-week dinners, meal planning and all those other buzzwords, what they don’t inform you is that within five minutes of cooking you’ll be breathlessly running around in a kind of manic fluster. In this instance, it’s good to have a small kitchen so that everything is within arm’s reach.

One of my teachers at cookery school gave us some words of wisdom – ‘you control the food. Don’t let the food control you.’ Somehow this sage advice slips my mind as I hurriedly remove clams from their shells, and oh yes, the pasta is turning to mush.

Sometimes, during a particularly tense part of cooking, as I aimlessly wander around the kitchen looking for garlic/a tea towel/my sanity, the dinner having stealthily slipped through my grasp along with any control I thought I had, I think to myself – ‘didn’t I go to cookery school?’ ‘Didn’t I work as a chef for three years?’ ‘Shouldn’t this be easier?’

spaghetti vongole

Every time, the speedy turn-around of a spaghetti dinner gives me whiplash. At the end of the day though, the inherent beauty of spaghetti is that it is forgiving. Just like their Italian inventors, spaghetti dishes are unfazed by just about anything. When we remember to not let the food control us, spaghetti can emerge from the pan perfectly every time.

Spaghetti vongole

Despite spaghetti vongole’s rather swankily high-end appearance with all its strewn parsley and open clam shells it is probably the most relaxed of the bunch. As long as you are aware of your surroundings which includes overflowing pasta water, nothing drastic will happen.

spaghetti vongole

I’ve found it to be helpful to repeat the name ‘vongole’ which must be said with an Italian accent – ending with an ‘ay’ rather than an ‘ole’ (like ‘mole’) – and straight-away I enter the kitchen with a relaxed feeling of summer freshness. Cooking feels like an escape to Italy rather than a runaway train.

Spaghetti ‘vongolay’ is pasta tossed in a salty broth which you make with garlic, chilli and half a glass of white wine (don’t you just love this nonchalance – every single recipe I found stated the imprecise (yet now it’s ironically precise) half a glass of wine. Chucking in the remainder of your glass before pouring yourself another is an Italian trait I highly admire) and with this broth you steam fresh clams.

That fresh summer feeling I mentioned earlier? Now add the scent of the sea. The pearly shells slowly crack open like hungry mouths and you can tip in your cooked spaghetti, extract some clam meat to make it easier to eat (less crunchy anyhow), then shower everything in parsley and lemon juice.

spaghetti vongole

If you’ve never eaten clams, I highly recommend you try this recipe. They are sweet and meaty, and the white wine broth clinging to the spaghetti is light like sea water meanwhile hitting your palate with garlic, lemon and chilli – all the best flavours for pasta and seafood. It has been my dream to make spaghetti vongole for YEARS – yes YEARS which is ridiculous – and finally, thanks to my 2022 recipe bucket list, it’s finally our time and I’m delighted!

Walk into that kitchen with Italian nonchalance – just remember to prepare all your ingredients, keep your eye on the heat, and these easy breezy 15-minute spaghetti dinners will stay under control.

Spaghetti vongole

A delicious and quick spaghetti recipe with clams. Buy clams from a market or fishmongers in the morning to make sure they are high-quality and fresh. Keep them in the fridge in their packaging until you use them later in the day. You can keep them for 24 hours however their quality will deteriorate.
Many recipes that I looked at all use the exact same ingredients however they add them in different orders, plus some of them strain the broth, others don't which was partly why the first time I made this I was almost hysterical – therefore, to make life easier, I have taken the best of some great vongole recipes and combined them here.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Course: Dinner, Lunch, Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: clams, garlic, parsley, spaghetti
Servings: 2
Author: Adapted from New York Times’ recipe

Ingredients

  • 175 g dried spaghetti
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • ¼ tsp chilli flakes
  • ½ a glass of white wine
  • 500 g fresh clams
  • A small handful of fresh parsley
  • ½ a lemon
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  • Prepare your ingredients and equipment: you will need a deep saucepan with a lid and another saucepan for the pasta. Have a colander ready in the sink, a bowl for the broth and a bowl for the shells.
    Gather your ingredients. Crush the garlic, chop the parsley and rinse the clams in cold running water. Discard any with cracked shells. Any open clams just need to be tapped on a work surface. If it doesn't close, throw it away.
  • Fill the pasta pan with salted water and bring to a boil. Add 1 tbsp olive oil and the garlic to the other saucepan and once sizzling, stir to prevent sticking then add the chilli flakes, wine and clams. Bring to the boil, then cover with the lid and leave to steam for 5 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti according to packet instructions. Finish anything that needs to be done like laying the table and wash up. Clean station, clean mind and all that!
  • Once the clams have steamed and are all open, strain off the broth into one of the spare bowls. Remove the meat from half of the clams and discard the empty shells into the other bowl. Double check all of the clams to make sure they have all opened.
  • By now the pasta will be ready so drain the pan through the colander. Return the spaghetti to the same pan along with the clam broth and the naked clams (the ones without shells), bring to a simmer and season to taste with salt, pepper, lemon juice and the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil.
  • Finally add the clams in their shells and the chopped parsley and serve with extra lemon.

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11 responses to “Spaghetti vongole”

  1. Dorothy's New Vintage Kitchen Avatar

    Such a wonderful and satisfying dish!

    1. Nigella Eats Everything Avatar

      Thank you Dorothy, and yes it really is! So perfect for summer!

  2. Sheree Avatar

    This is one of my faves

    1. Nigella Eats Everything Avatar

      Oh amazing, it’s divine isn’t it! I could eat it every night if only clams weren’t so expensive

      1. Sheree Avatar

        That sadly is the downside

  3. Thistles and Kiwis Avatar

    I feel hungry just looking at this – a firm favourite but I never make it at home.

    1. Nigella Eats Everything Avatar

      Haha what is it about spaghetti and seafood that just triggers hunger?! This was the first time I made it myself and I was very pleasantly surprised!

  4. Nancy Richy Avatar

    Fantastico!! This is the stuff I grew up on! Everything looks amazing and now I’m craving Spaghetti con Vongole – and it’s not even 7AM here in NY! Absolutely divine!
    PS – FYI, I don’t know if it’s just me but I do not see a “Like” button on the bottom of your posts, only a “Share” button. It says ‘loading’ but doesn’t look like anything is happening. Just thought I’d let you know; I want to badly to give this a proper “Like”!

    1. Nigella Eats Everything Avatar

      Haha I could definitely join you in craving spaghetti and seafood at 7am! Thank you so much!
      And also thanks so much for your feedback – I did a big update for my blog’s layout and there are some little places here and there that still need to be straightened out, thanks for letting me know!

      1. Nancy Richy Avatar

        You’re welcome! I just had a big battle with WordPress about some nonsense with my site but in the end they came through for me and everything works perfectly now. Hang in there. Hope it gets straightened out for you!

      2. Nigella Eats Everything Avatar

        Oh god that sounds frustrating, really glad it was sorted though – and I must say, it’s a relief to know others go through site mishaps too! Thank you and thank you again for pointing it out!

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