Lista’s White Clam Sauce

In my very first post (6/11/17), I shared the sauce recipe from Lista’s Italian Cuisine. I mentioned that in those days we only served one type of sauce… but then I was reminded by my brother Bill that we also served a fabulous White Clam Sauce at Lista’s.

Spaghetti with white clam sauce (spaghetti alle vongole in bianco) is a popular dish in the Campania region of Italy — where my Grandpa Pat’s family is from. Much of Campania is coastal and so it’s common for the cuisine from that region to contain seafood, especially mussels, octopus, squid, shrimp, anchovies, and the tiny regional clams called vongole veraci. It’s those little clams that makes the sauce authentically Campania

However, at Lista’s, which was far from Campania, we made our clam sauce with what was readily available at the time, the more mundane canned clams. Still, the canned clams we used were of the highest quality and were very tender and full of flavor. At Lista’s the clam sauce was made with butter, clams, clam juice, garlic, parsley, and lots of Pecorino Romano cheese. This was made to order with the cooked spaghetti simmered in the sauce for several minutes before serving.

For this recipe I am using half olive oil and half butter; canned whole baby clams (to better match the original vongole veraci variety). Whole baby clams are readily available at grocery stores — you can leave them whole (my preference) or give them a quick chop with a sharp knife.

Also, I’m using some white wine (Pinot Grigio)… we didn’t add wine to the sauce at Lista’s but I have found that when I make it at home it adds a little brightness to the dish.

Lista’s White Clam Sauce

Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 20-30 min
Serves: 4 dinner servings

2 TBSP Olive Oil

2 TBSP Butter
1/2 tsp Crushed Red Pepper
4 cloves Garlic – finely chopped
1 cup Dry White Wine (such as Pinot Grigio)
2 can (10 oz) Whole Baby Clams with Juice
Bottled Clam Juice as needed
1 lb. Spaghetti – cooked al dente
Salt and Black Pepper – to taste
1/4 cup Italian Parsley Leaves – chopped
1/4-1/2 cup Grated Pecorino Romano

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook spaghetti according to package directions for al dente (about 7-8 minutes).

2. Heat a large deep skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and butter, red pepper, and garlic — cook until butter foams and garlic is translucent (about 3 minutes).
3. Add white wine and reduce for 1 minute, add clams and juice from cans and heat through. Season generously with salt and pepper.
4. Drain pasta. Add to skillet and toss with sauce 3 to 4 minutes, until pasta has absorbed some of the sauce and flavor — add in more bottled clam juice as needed to keep moist. Add parsley and Romano cheese and toss to coat. Serve immediately.

There you have it, Spaghetti with Lista’s White Clam Sauce. I hope you enjoy this simple but flavorful dish. You could add it to your Italian Christmas Eve tradition as one of the “Seven Fishes.” Serve with a Caesar style salad and some good crusty Italian bread. You could ‘fancy it up’ if you want by adding some other seafood like bay scallops or shrimp. 

Until next time remember, “The Sauce Makes the Difference!”

One thought on “Lista’s White Clam Sauce

  1. My all time favorite pasta dish (Rig Fra is a close second!)!! This is one of the Lenten Friday meals that mom would make at home. I have tried pasta with white clam sauce in many restaurants and I may be prejudice, but our family made the best!! Thanks again for posting, Dan! 🇮🇹🇮🇹


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