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The Proverbial White Clam Sauce (Pasta alle Vongole)

I just adore pasta fixed any which way, BUT, and this is a big BUT, no sauce like white clam sauce has this crazy effect on me.    I do believe that I fall in love with my pasta.  The aroma is wonderful.  It is like standing on the beach and a lovely, fresh ocean breeze circulates your face. It is truly a dish like no other pasta dish.  White clam sauce stands alone.  There are many variations of tomato sauce for pasta, but white clam sauce is unique unto itself, and truly, you don’t want to be adding all kinds of extra things to this dish, because its simplicity is what makes it “roar”!

My first encounter with this dish was, of course, my Mom’s.  Her white clam sauce was very simple, and consequently, very delicious.  She only used fresh clams.  The rest was olive oil, garlic and plenty of it, fresh flat leaf parsley, and a shake of salt and pepper to taste.  I watched a well known cook the other day on television make clam sauce,  and I really felt she violated the dish when she left out the garlic!  I found myself shaking my head and not liking the show, as I was taught at an early age that the garlic is an essential ingredient.

It’s a no brainer that my Mom’s white clam sauce was always tops in my mind, until the day that I traveled to Rome in my late twenties.  I remember ordering it in a tiny restaurant  in the vicinity of the Spanish Steps.  It was amazing, and what made it so amazing were the size of the clams.  They were so tiny, and the pasta was covered with about 30-40 plus of them.  I had never had clams that were so sweet, so tender, or so full of flavor.  Again, it was the sum of its parts that yielded the perfect masterpiece.  Yes, I was making a lot of yummy noises while eating that dish.  The ingredients in Italy are very different than here in the United States.  I could actually start a whole blog on just that topic.  Each neighborhood has its own garden plentiful with fresh vegetables and herbs.  It is even a very common thing for a restaurant to have its own garden in the back or side of a hill.  Your salad at dinner was probably growing out there just that afternoon, and that’s what makes it taste so fresh, crisp, and alive.

So, let’s get back to reality here.  It goes without saying, and also may I ask your forgiveness, that my gluten free pasta with white clam sauce rendition cannot compare to the sublime experience of eating it in Rome.   I won’t be replicating that experience for you, sad to say. However, it is quick, easy, and may I add, that it has “oceans” of flavor.
Va Bene!  (Okay, in Italian).


  • 3 cans (6.5 oz. size) chopped clams
  • (I love Bar Harbor brand, if you can find it near you)
  • 5-6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • Large handful freshly chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 small bottle clam juice
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
  • 1 1/4 pounds gluten free pasta, your choice ( I like Tinkyada Fettucine)


  1. Sautee chopped garlic in olive oil until cooked, but not brown
  2. Add red pepper flakes to hot oil and move around several seconds to release their fire
  3. Add clams with their juice
  4. Add bottle of clam juice
  5. Add chopped parsley
  6. Season with salt and pepper to taste
  7. Bring to a simmer, then cover, take off heat and set aside
  8. Boil your pasta to desired doneness
  9. Drain and pour hot clam sauce over it
  10. Toss and serve