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20 Minutes: White Clam Sauce Pasta Recipe

white clam sauce pasta recipe
Quick and easy white clam sauce pasta

Last night, I was dreading going to the grocery store and peered through my freezer and pantry contemplating what to eat for dinner. It’s been a few days now where I’m avoiding what will inevitably be a huge grocery run, so what’s one more? Besides, I am never truly out of something to eat at home; it’s more of a matter of how much and how long do I want to cook right now.

I was to eat alone tonight, which is a rarity, so honestly, I didn’t really care what I made or how I made it. I was just starving to death and needed food quickly.

What could I possibly make that (1) wouldn’t take a lot of time and (2) was edible?

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From the Pantry

white clam sauce with bowtie pasta recipe
Barilla Farfalle Bowtie Pasta

I had half a box of fettuccine left and a full box of bowtie pasta. I grabbed the latter.

Ingredients for EZ White Clam Sauce Pasta
Snow’s Minced or Diced Clams

There are two things that I almost always have in the pantry. More often than not, it’s for emergency purposes but sometimes, it’s also just because it’s easy. One is chicken broth; I love making chicken stock and often have it on hand, but sometimes, you need chicken broth and there’s no time to make it. Considering it lasts for what may be a couple of lifetimes in the pantry, I have it on hand at all times. Period. 
The second item I usually have in stock the can above: Snow’s Minced Clams. I don’t like the diced variety — just the minced ones. When you’re suddenly having people over, or you want to make a quick snack for friends, or want to whip up a quick clam chowder — this has saved my butt many, many times. There’s just no reason to be completely out of this canned good; it’s easily available at your local supermarkets if you try to find it.

Sure, fresh clams rock — but like I said, I had no intention of leaving this house (nor would I have wanted to clean clams last night) and was rapidly fading from hunger.

That qualifies as urgent!


From the Fridge

Peering in my unusually bare refrigerator, I found the following items (the photos are stock photos — not mine):

For the garlic, mince finely if you don’t like getting bites of garlic, or you can slice thinly like I did for my pasta. I enjoy biting into fully cooked garlic so if at all possible, I tend to slice.

For the onions, I sliced them into even pieces and left them long instead if dicing them.

Serrano peppers are just about my favorite thing. A few times a day, it would not be unusual for you to find me just snacking on these with some Sriracha while I’m writing a post and thinking. Some people like cookies — I love my peppers, especially serranos. I sliced these but kept them on the side to use more as a garnish than to actually use in the sauce. Obviously, if you can’t handle spicy — feel free to leave these out. If you like the fresh green garnish, you can always dice some green bell peppers into little squares, or use a much milder pepper. It’s just nice to give a crunchy bite of something in the dish.

And the peas.

While I love my fresh vegetables, some staples I have in the freezer are edamame beans and grean peas. Again, this is just good to have on hand, and they last a long time without going bad. I don’t know about you, but we’re constantly throwing out leftover vegetables that we couldn’t use in time, so having some freshly frozen veggies on hand is useful and frugal — like last night! I didn’t have anything else in the freezer that I thought would go nicely in the pasta, so I grabbed about a cupful of peas.

The cream, butter and lime — you will use at the end right before serving. Prepare and be ready to use is according to the recipe below.


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Here’s the actual “recipe”. Unlike my other posts, as I was just cooking for the sake of feeding myself instead of an actual recipe post, I didn’t take any other photos. However, because of how great this easy, simple dish tasted — I felt compelled to create a post about it.

Really, it’s the dumbest and easiest pasta dish you will ever make.


Easy 20 Minutes Clam Sauce Pasta
This is an easy and very quick (and ghetto) white clam sauce with pasta recipe that anyone can make. But most importantly, despite how easy it is, it tastes amazing!
Cuisine: Italian
Recipe type: Pasta
Serves: 4
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
  • Bowtie Pasta (at least half a box or adjust accordingly)
  • Snow's Minced Clams
  • Heavy Cream or Half & Half
  • White Wine -- Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc recommended
  • Garlic - three to four cloves
  • Onion - half to full onion
  • 1 C of frozen peas
  • 2 Serrano peppers, or the kind you prefer - fresh
  • Butter
  • ½ C of Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc or another white wine
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Fresh Lime
  1. Prepare the boiling water for the pasta. Salt heavily and once it's at a full boil, put the pasta in with some olive oil to keep it from sticking.
  2. Stir every minute or two until al dente. It should have a toothsome bite to it, not mushy.
  3. Drain completely, and put back into the pot and drizzle with a little bit of olive oil until the sauce is done.
  4. _________________
  5. In the meantime, prepare the sauce:
  6. Slice or chop garlic
  7. Slice or chop onions
  8. Heat saucepan and put olive oil in.
  9. Toss in the garlic and onions and lightly cook.
  10. After 2 minutes, toss in the entire can of clams and the juice in the can.
  11. Let it heat to a soft boil and then pour in a ½ cup of Mondavi Fume Blanc.
  12. Taste and season with salt and pepper -- be aggressive with seasoning!
  13. Bring to a full boil and let it boil for 7-8 minutes -- letting the sauce reduce.
  14. Put in about 1.5 T of butter and a ¼ cup of cream AND THE FROZEN PEAS.
  15. Season again, if needed.
  16. Bring to a full boil once, taste one pea to make sure it's completely heated through, and remove from the heat.
  17. Pour all of the sauce over the bowtie pasta in the pot.
  18. Stir completely and thoroughly.
  19. Squeeze one fresh lime into the pasta and incorporate completely.
  20. Serve on a plate and garnish with fresh peppers and black pepper.
  21. If you want to add Parmesan cheese, which I did not, I'd recommend skipping the lime.


Ingredients for EZ White Clam Sauce Pasta

Despite using common ingredients and canned or frozen goods to prepare this dish, what I think made this dish extraordinary was the top quality of butter and wine that I used. Ordinarily, I am not big on using anything over $10 for cooking wine but with white sauces — I think the taste changes dramatically when you use a really good wine.

Cooking with Wine: White Clam Sauce Pasta
2010 Robert Mondavi Winery Fumé Blanc

The wine I opened last night for the purpose of making this sauce was a 2010 Robert Mondavi Winery Fumé Blanc. But as soon as I uncorked it and took a whiff, I did a double take because the crispy and buttery aroma was enchanting.

NEVER do I have a drink with dinner when I’m eating alone at home, but it was good enough to make me immediately want a glass of wine.

So, I used about a 1/2 C for the sauce and each time I took a taste of it, I became more and more impressed with the taste. My conclusion that it has to be the wine that made this sauce so good is because unlike most other times I cook, I really went ghetto-fabulous this time with canned and frozen goods. That’s not where this great flavor came from.

The reason I mention this particular wine is also because the pairing of this pasta with this wine was too good to be experienced alone!

This wine brought all of the individual flavors in the pasta dish to life.

The sweetness of each pea was enhanced, and even the garlic and onions brightened up despite being completely cooked. With the lime at the end, this pasta’s flavors are naturally brightened up — but the wine brings it home.

It’s available here, and you can search for a store closer to you. As this is the first Fumé Blanc I’ve had from Mondavi — I can’t speak for the other vintages except the 2010. My regular Fumé Blanc choice has ALWAYS been Ferrari Carano, which I can drink by the gallon if it’s available.

Anyway, while this isn’t exquisite cooking by any definition, I know there are plenty of nights where you need dinner fast and preferably have it taste really great anyway. This being prepared and served under 30 minutes if cooked concurrently is a huge plus — and these are all items easily kept in the home for a longer duration.

It’s healthier than fast food and at least you have a good idea of what went into your meal.

Kids and adults alike should like this white clam sauce pasta — and you can easily replace the bowtie pasta for another noodle of your choice. I personally prefer bowtie because the nooks in the pasta capture the lighter sauces nicely.

Give it a try and let me know if you enjoyed it!


Grace Keh

Managing Editor

Grace Keh is the author of "Food Lovers' Guide to San Francisco" and the critic, editor and photographer behind San Francisco Food. In her regular day job, she consults for corporate clients in marketing and event strategy. Once the sun sets, she's on the hunt for great food in what she considers to be one of the world's greatest cities, San Francisco.

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San Francisco Food® has been providing trusted restaurant reviews and recipes since 2009, led by food author Grace Keh & read by food lovers worldwide.


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