My Linguine with Clams and Lemony Breadcrumbs is a restaurant-quality dish that is deceptively simple to make at home.
I love seafood and am always looking for ways to incorporate a wide variety of seafood into my diet. My Linguine with Clams and Lemony Breadcrumbs is a restaurant-quality dish that is deceptively simple to make.
Although many people are intimidated by the thought of cooking clams at home, I actually grew up eating fresh clams that we used to get from the creek behind my family's summer house. After hours of digging in the sand for fresh clams, we would go back to the house and enjoy a huge pot of steamed clams made with a simple garlic and white wine sauce that we would sop up with crusty bread. Now that I live in Manhattan, I buy my clams from the local fish market but I still love to make them because they are quick, delicious and very nutritious.
Clams, like a lot of other mollusks and shellfish, have a fair amount of cholesterol but more importantly, are very low in saturated fat. Eating a diet low in saturated fat is the most important factor for maintaining a healthy blood cholesterol.
Clams are also a very good source of protein and are packed with several minerals and vitamins including selenium, manganese, phosphorus, zinc, Vitamin B12 and Vitamin C.
They are surprisingly high in iron- one 3 ounce serving of cooked clams (about 9 small clams) has 132% of your daily recommended amount. This makes clams a great option for people who don't eat red meat and want to make sure they get an adequate amount of iron in their diets.
Clams also have a good amount of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Check out my post on seafood and the health benefits of omega 3 fatty acids. Because of the health benefits of omega-3s, the USDA dietary guidelines recommend eating at least two servings of seafood per week.
So don’t just limit yourself to fish like salmon and tuna when trying to get your omega-3s- consider adding clams and other mollusks like mussels and oysters to vary your seafood intake.
How to prep clams
To avoid getting bites of gritty sand in your finished product, clams require a little bit of prep work. Before getting started, discard any clams that are cracked, open or have a bad odor because this usually means that the clam is already dead and shouldn't be eaten. If you tap the clam gently and it closes, then it's ok to eat.
Soak the clams in a bowl of water for at least 20 minutes. As they soak, they will purge any sand from inside their shells. After they're done soaking, lift the clams from the water leaving any sand in the bottom of the bowl. Don’t pour the contents of the bowl into a colander or you will end up dumping the sand on top of the clams.
Finally, scrub the clams with a stiff kitchen brush to remove any other grit or particles on the surface. After that, you’re ready to go.
How to make the dish
For my dish, I like to start by sautéing aromatics like leeks, garlic and a bit of red pepper flakes for heat. Leeks are in season and have a lovely, mild oniony flavor that pairs very well with seafood. If you don’t have them, you can use a regular onion or shallot.
Then I add the clams to the pot along with some white wine and lemon juice. After that, the pot is covered and the steam cooks the clams in a matter of minutes- once they open, they’re done. If you cook them for too long, they will get tough and rubbery. If any of the clams don’t open, throw them out.
Sprinkle in some fresh parsley to brighten the flavor and you’re ready to eat. Before serving, I like to toss the sauce with quinoa linguine so that the pasta absorbs the flavorful liquid.
Quinoa pasta is a great, nutritious substitute for traditional pasta and has all of the health benefits of quinoa.
To finish the dish, I like to add some homemade lemon-infused breadcrumbs on top for texture. Although you can use store-bought breadcrumbs, fresh breadcrumbs only take a few minutes to make and are definitely worth the effort.
Linguine with Clams and Lemony Breadcrumbs
- 2 slices whole wheat bread, crusts cut off
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
Linguine with Clams:
- 8 oz. quinoa linguine or other linguine
- 4 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 medium leek, halved lengthwise and sliced (white and light green parts)
- 3 cloves garlic
- ¼- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 3 dozen littleneck clams (about 4 ½ lbs.), cleaned
- ¾ cup dry white wine
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- To make the lemony breadcrumbs, cut the bread into pieces and pulse them in a food processor to form breadcrumbs. Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat and add the garlic and lemon zest. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then add the breadcrumbs. Cook, stirring often, until breadcrumbs are golden and toasted. Stir in the parsley and salt.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions until al dente. Drain the pasta.
- While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large Dutch oven other pot over medium heat. Add the leeks and sauté a few minutes until tender. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook another minute until fragrant. Add the clams, wine and lemon juice and stir to mix all of the ingredients.
- Cover the pot and cook until all of the clams open, about 5-8 minutes. Toss out any unopened clams. Stir in the parsley.
- Remove the clams from the pot and place them in a bowl. Add the pasta to the liquid in the pot and toss to combine. Season the pasta with salt and pepper. Transfer the pasta to a large serving bowl and arrange the clams on top. Sprinkle some of the lemony breadcrumbs on top. Serve extra breadcrumbs on the side.
thank you for debunking the myth (in my mind) that clams are scary. .... I've never prepared them before. In my own defense, I am somewhat conservative when it comes to seafood since I live smack in the middle of the country. With a little advance planning I think I can order some fresh clams, and prepare an extra special and healthy meal. I do like them so I'll let you know.
Thanks for stopping by! Clams really are easy to prepare once you get over the initial intimidation factor. This makes a great dish for a special dinner- your guests will be impressed! Definitely let me know how it goes if you try the recipe.
That is a beautiful bowl of pasta and the clams look amazing. Nice job.
Carrie's Experimental Kitchen says
Good morning, I featured this recipe on my blog today, it looks great! Thanks for allowing me to share. Here is the link http://carriesexperimentalkitchen.blogspot.com/2012/04/week-13-seafood-frenzy-friday.html
Lisa @ Snappy Gourmet says
Where do you get the quinoa pasta? Sounds good! Will have to look for it!
They sell it at my local grocery stores like Fairway and Food Emporium. Whole Foods probably carries it too. I really like it and the texture is pretty close to traditional pasta.
Katherine Martinelli says
Mmm I love clams but had no idea they were so good for you! Sweet! And I've never tried quinoa pasta. This whole dish is just gorgeous.
Thanks, Katherine! Isn't it great when healthy food tastes good too?
Brianne @ Cupcakes & Kale Chips says
I just tried quinoa pasta for the first time this weekend. Hoping to post the recipe tomorrow, but it was really good! I'd love to make this with shrimp - I am not a clam person.
Will keep an eye out for your recipe! I really like quinoa pasta and think the texture is pretty similar to traditional pasta. I think this dish would be great with shrimp, very similar to shrimp scampi.
This sounds so good and easy to make. I'm going to give it a try on Friday when we have friends over for dinner. One of them is pregnant. I recall that clams are a safe seafood to consume while preggers. I didn't know they were a good source of omega-3's. That's good to know! I got a little tired of salmon being my only safe seafood and omega-3 source when I was pregnant.
Should they be soaked in fresh water or salt water?
Thanks, Melissa! This dish is easy and fast but looks very elegant- perfect for a dinner party. Yes, clams are safe in pregnancy- just make sure they're cooked. If you're using clams that you caught, you should soak them in salt water to purge the sand but most commercial clams sold in stores are already cleaned so you can skip this step and just soak them in fresh water. Some sites recommend adding a little bit of cornmeal or flour to the water to make the clams purge even more sand, so you can try that if you want. Let me know how it goes- hope you're doing well!
Love the clam tutorial and iron and omega 3's great combo. I would omit breadcrumbs (I'm wheat free) but can't wait to try this on the family.
Thanks, Lauren- hope they like it!
What a cool take on a classic. I love the bread crumbs!
Thanks! I love the breadcrumbs too- they add nice flavor and crunch!
Thanks Laura!! We love quinoa pasta!
Is the cooking time and recipe the same if I replace the clams with mussels, since they are easier to find?
I love the quinoa linguini twist.
Yummy and quick recipe for a summer lunch.
Thanks! Yes, you can substitute mussels for the clams in this recipe but they cook even faster- check on them after just a few minutes. Enjoy!
Looks great! I think the "secret" to many restaurant-quality dishes is that the components are pretty simple. Solid technique and excellent ingredients can speak for themselves. 🙂
Thanks Jenni, I totally agree! I love keeping it simple and letting the ingredients shine.