How to Make Spaghetti with Canned Clams

Overhead of a bowl of finished clam pasta with a fork tangled in the noodles.
Recipe At-A-Glance
Pantry Meal15 minutes
Spaghetti with Canned Clams is a speedy weeknight pantry meal that is packed full of delicious seafood flavor. We make this dinner when the fridge is empty, and it's a hit with everyone in your family! Serve it with white wine and a green salad to round out the meal.

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If you take a peek in my pantry, you’ll always find canned clams. It might seem like a strange pantry staple, but cans of clams are the jumping-off point to some amazing seafood dishes, like this Spaghetti with Clams recipe.

They are flavorful, they are affordable, and they are a must-try if you haven’t had them before!

In an ideal world, we’d all be able to go clam digging daily and use the freshest of clams in our dinners. Alas, I’m landlocked, and I’m sure a lot of you folks are as well, so we’re left with using canned clams.

Close-up of forkful of spaghetti with clams ready to eat.

Have no fear! Canned clams are packed with tender morsels of clams in a juice that has tons of wonderful ocean flavor. Here, we’ll use that juice to make the most delectable, silky sauce for spaghetti.

Wholefully Protip

You’ll see both chopped and whole canned clams at the store. Either works, but buying them pre-chopped will save you a step.

All ingredients needed to make spaghetti with canned clams sit in individual bowls, alongside tools such as a wooden cutting board and microplane.

What ingredients do you need to make spaghetti with canned clams?

This recipe uses ingredients that are all almost entirely pantry staples—you probably have most of this already kicking around the kitchen! To make this recipe, you’ll need:

Overhead of spaghetti with canned clams in a bowl beside silverware and fresh garnishes.

How do you make spaghetti with clams?

The process for making this weeknight meal is as easy as can be:

  1. Cook spaghetti in a large pot of boiling, salted water.
  2. While the spaghetti cooks, make the clam sauce by sautéing garlic and red pepper flakes in oil. Then add in the liquid from the canned clams, plus some white wine (or chicken broth). Simmer until it has reduced and thickened slightly.
  3. Remove the sauce from the heat, and add in lemon juice and zest, butter, and the canned clams.
  4. Toss the drained spaghetti with the sauce, and top with fresh minced parsley, Parmesan cheese, and a heavy dose of freshly cracked black pepper.

Wholefully Protip

Reserve about a cup of the pasta cooking water before draining your spaghetti. If the pasta seems a bit dry after mixing with the sauce, you can add some of the starchy cooking water to thin the sauce.

Overhead of canned clams, butter, and other sauce ingredients in a skillet with a wooden spoon.

Should you rinse canned clams before using them?

No, don’t rinse the clams before using them. In fact, make sure you reserve all the clam juice that’s in the can—that’s what makes up the base of the pasta sauce.

Do you have to cook canned clams first?

Nope! Because of the processing time to preserve the clams in the cans, they are fully cooked. We just toss them in at the end of cooking the sauce to warm them through.

Close-up of fork about to dig in and twirl the finished spaghetti and clams on a plate.

How do I reheat leftovers?

Seafood is notoriously tricky to reheat, but this recipe reheats well in a saucepan over low on the stovetop. We don’t recommend using the microwave unless you want the clam smell to linger.

Wholefully Protip

Add a bit of water or chicken broth to the spaghetti before reheating on the stovetop—this will help keep it from drying out.

 

 

Overhead of a bowl of finished clam pasta with a fork tangled in the noodles.

Spaghetti with Canned Clams Recipe

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes

Spaghetti with Canned Clams is a weeknight pantry meal that is packed full of delicious seafood flavor. It comes together in less than 15 minutes!

Ingredients

  • Salt, for pasta water
  • 10 ounces dry spaghetti (can use gluten-free or whole wheat, if desired)
  • 2 tablespoons olive or avocado oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 6.5-ounce cans clams, reserve liquid, clams chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine or chicken broth
  • Zest and juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon butter, optional
  • 2 tablespoons fresh minced parsley
  • 1/2 cup shaved or shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil (use about one tablespoon of salt per two quarts of water—it should taste as salty as seawater). Add in the spaghetti and cook until al dente (about 2 minutes less than the time listed on the package). Reserve about 1 cup of the cooking water and set aside, then drain the pasta. Do not rinse.
  2. While the spaghetti cooks, heat the oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add in the garlic and red pepper flakes, and sauté until just fragrant and tender, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add in the liquid from the two cans of clams and the wine or chicken broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer until the mixture reduces down and thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. 
  4. Remove from heat. Add in the zest and juice from a lemon, the butter, and the chopped clams. Add in the hot, drained pasta, and toss to combine. Add in the pasta cooking water, a couple of tablespoons at a time, if the mixture feels dry.
  5. Serve topped with fresh minced parsley, Parmesan, and black pepper.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 608Total Fat: 13gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 71mgSodium: 1625mgCarbohydrates: 80gFiber: 4gSugar: 10gProtein: 37g

At Wholefully, we believe that good nutrition is about much more than just the numbers on the nutrition facts panel. Please use the above information as only a small part of what helps you decide what foods are nourishing for you.

Cassie is the founder and CEO of Wholefully. She's a home cook and wellness junkie with a love of all things healthy living. She lives on a small hobby farm in Southern Indiana with her husband, daughter, two dogs, two cats, and 15 chickens.
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