I think the term “white clam sauce” is a bit of a misnomer. The truth is that you aren’t really looking for a “sauce” per se because what is the “sauce” anyway? A bit of butter and oil and clam juice? It’s too liquidy to be a “sauce”.
No, what you are really looking for is a way to infuse the pasta itself with the essence of shallot, garlic, oil, butter, and clams, without it actually carrying a sauce with it. I’ve struggled over the years to figure out how to get this right. Sometimes it’s too gloppy and so it ultimately feels too thick. Other times it’s too watery and it feels as though there isn’t a sauce at all and the pasta doesn’t have the right flavor. I’ve tried tinkering with the ingredients and it doesn’t really get where it needs to go. Until now.
I realized that it’s not about the ingredients so much as in the cooking technique. This technique I propose here makes the dish in my opinion. The “sauce” is essentially the consistency of water and once you’ve served yourself the linguine with tongs it won’t look like there’s a sauce on it at all. But the flavor is there to perfection. In fact, it was so good when I made it that we’d eaten the whole batch before I realized that I’d forgotten to take a picture of it plated. So, you’ll have to make your own to see what it looks like on the plate!
Linguine with Clams
2 bags (40-50 count each) of clams
4 tbsp unsalted butter
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 medium-large shallots, sliced very thin
2 medium-large garlic cloves, minced
1 cup white wine
1 cup stock (I use chicken, but vegetable, or clam juice works too)
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 lb linguine
Scrub and rinse the clams in a bowl of cold water to remove any residual sand or grit.
In a heavy bottomed soup pot melt the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Saute the scallions over medium low heat until they are slightly browned. Add in the garlic and saute until just fragrant (be careful not to overcook or burn the garlic it will make the dish taste bitter). Add in the wine and broth into the pot and put the clams on top and put the lid onto the pot.
Turn the heat on high under a pot of water for the pasta.
Turn the heat up to boil the liquid. Boil for 15-20 minutes or until the clams open.
Par-boil the pasta (cook about halfway), drain and remove from the pot.
When the clams have opened* remove them from the pot and add the par-boiled pasta. Sprinkle the pasta with the red pepper. Allow the pasta to finish cooking in the clams cooking liquid.
Add the clams back into the pot and serve with tongs and a large spoon for scooping the clams.
Serve with or without Parmesan cheese, depending on your preference.
*Remember that any clams that are open when you clean them need to be discarded and any clams that are not open after you’ve cooked them need to be discarded. Both are signs that the clam has passed on before cooking, which can be dangerous.