This has been my husband’s go-to favorite dish for 35 years. Whenever suppertime comes around and there seems to be no plan appearing, this is what he asks me to make. I first made it on a whim but it’s such a simple, satisfying meal we have it almost once a week. The fact that it comes together quickly and tastes even better the next day just makes it that much easier to love. It’s easy to fiddle with too, almost a requirement for me. At times we’ve replaced canned clams with shrimp or bay scallops and even real in-the-shell clams, or sometimes just added them, along with spinach and/or mushrooms. The basic recipe is the same (see an earlier post showing how I modified it to fit a Whole 30 menu and a daughter who avoids garlic). Bottled clam juice can substitute for canned clams. The great thing about making it ahead is that the pasta will absorb excess juice so it tastes even better. Keep that in mind when cooking the linguine and cook it al dente so it won’t get mushy sitting in all that clam juice.
A word of caution — be very careful when you press the softened garlic in hot oil. I showed a friend how to make this and the splattering oil left her with a huge blister on the back of her hand. Test the garlic with a fork to make sure it’s soft enough to press.
— Joan, 27 April 2018
- 10 oz. linguine or fettucine, cooked al dente and drained
- 2 6.5 oz. cans clams in juice
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 4-6 cloves fresh garlic
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to taste
- ½-1 teaspoon dried marjoram
- salt and pepper to taste
- minced parsley for garnish, if desired
Heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat, then reduce heat to low and add the whole garlic cloves (if the cloves are large, slice them so they’re all about the same size). Watch carefully so the garlic doesn’t burn and check it after a minute or two. Use a fork to press down on the softened cloves so they release their juice into the oil. This is where you need to be very careful not to burn yourself! Once they’ve been pressed it will look like the picture above. Remove the pressed garlic from the pan and either discard it or save it for a crunchy topping for the brave on each plate of pasta. Remove the pan from heat and wait till any bubbling subsides. Add the marjoram and red pepper flakes. Carefully (watch for splattering oil!) pour in the juice from the canned clams, reserving the clams, and return to low heat. Bring to a simmer. Add the drained pasta and stir everything together, then empty the reserved clams onto the top. At this point you can let it simmer for a few minutes so the pasta will absorb some of the juice, or put it in the refrigerator for a later time. If we’re eating it right away we sometimes add a little panko or almond meal to soak up excess juiciness. Sprinkle with fresh shredded parmesan cheese for serving.
A note about using shrimp or scallops — slip raw seafood into the clam juice after bringing it to simmer, but before adding pasta, and let them cook in the juice. Add the pasta when they’re cooked and remove from heat immediately. Bottled clam juice can replace canned clams. Start with half a bottle and add more if needed. Same with spinach — add it before the pasta. Mushrooms should be sautéed before adding with pasta.