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Spaghetti with Clams (Spaghetti con Vongole)

4 Servings

35 minutes

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At Perduto, a canal-side restaurant in Venice, Italy, chef Gianpiero Turdo taught us how to make a regional pasta classic: bigoli con vongole (bigoli with clams). The al dente pasta, garlic, wine, parsley and briny clams were a seamless blend of complementary flavors and the deliciousness of the dish belied the ease with which it came together. Bigoli is a long, thick, round extruded noodle, sometimes made with whole-wheat flour, sometimes with eggs. At Perduto, the bigoli is house made. In the U.S., easier-to-find spaghetti or bucatini are good substitutes. We prefer littleneck clams for this recipe, but manila clams also work. Whichever variety you use, scrub the clams well to remove as much grit as possible. When boiling the pasta, be sure to drain it when it is not quite al dente. The noodles will finish cooking in the reduced clam juices, a technique that infuses the spaghetti with the sweet briny notes of the clams.




Don’t use more than 2 quarts of water to cook the pasta and don’t forget to reserve about 2 cups of water before draining the spaghetti. The idea is for the pasta water to be extra-starchy so that when some is added at the end of cooking, it gives the sauce body and clingability.

35 minutes


  • 12

    ounces spaghetti or bucatini

  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper


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Dwight F.
November 28, 2022
Inconveniently written
Perhaps I was expecting, as was always the case with Cooks Illustrated, recipes tailored to what might be found in a typical market. But this calls for 12oz of spaghetti. I assume that’s to size it for 4 servings, but that’s not what my market sells. I have 16oz boxes of pasta. The Milk Street store has 17.5oz (500g) bags of pasta! I implore you to size your recipes to the most common pasta packages so that we don’t all end up with 4oz of every pasta shape languishing in our pantries. Maybe let us practice our own portion control. Is anyone going to complain if there’s a leftover serving or two?
Cynthia R.
September 26, 2023
Love this dish...
It was my dad's favorite Italian dish. There is a local Italian Restaurant in Middleboro MA, LORENZO's, that makes their own pasta. When this dish comes out of the kitchen, you know it!!! SO GOOD!!! My other favorite dish is their Salmon...😋 This restaurant has been in business for a very long time... at one point they had waitresses on rollerskates, roll up to your car, take your orders, and skate back with trays that hooked on to your windows... it was REALLY popular when I was a kid... I am now turning 70 in 3 months...😁 It was great then & still is... Great food!!! When dad passed away the family & friends went there for lunch after his service and toasted him!!! He & Mom frequented this restaurant, so it was only fitting. Thanks for your recipe... love your show on PBS, watch almost every day😊
Emily M.

I don't understand why you throw away the garlic. I saw you did that in at least one other recipe. Does leaving the garlic in the dish make it too garlicky? (for me that is NOT at thing!)

Lynn C.

Hi Emily -

When we were taught this dish (and others) in Italy, we learned that Italian cooks often use whole, smashed garlic cloves to season the cooking oil to provide a subtle garlic flavor. This allows other, more delicate, ingredients in the dish to be the star since garlic has a tendency to overpower a dish.

The Milk Street Team

Dennis H.

I am often leary when I see fresh live littleneck clams for sale in the supermarket. I'm never sure that they are alive. Some of the Asian supermarkets where I live sell bags of frozen "littleneck clams", which I use for this dish. I often will supplement one bag of frozen with one can of "baby clams". Canned baby clams can be found in many supermarkets around the country. The water in the canned clams is very flavorful. This way I get the appearance of the clam shells in the spaghetti, with a good clam flavor as well. I used to use just canned baby clams, which was also delicious.