College Linguini and Clams

 One night in college, I was craving Italian-restaurant style linguini and clams… on a college budget. Without giving away my age, a quick internet search meant sitting down at a computer and printing out a recipe, not using my phone and yielding a wide selection of cute-sy blog photos and having to peel through dozens in order to determine which one is likely the best. Back in my college days, a quick search resulted in a no-photo simple man’s recipe that promised the most buttery linguini and clams without actually having to use a ton of butter. I was sold.

Over the years I’ve adapted the recipe to my liking, but it is still quite similar to that first college try. I like to make it around that time of the month, because as it turns out, clams are high in iron, but this year, we also made it on Christmas Eve. As my family is Catholic, and my grandmother would often make oyster soup on Christmas Eve, I was craving that kind of a holiday meal.


In college, I would use a can of Snow’s chopped clams, but now I know better (and have a slightly better budget), and I use Bar Harbor, whose ingredients are simply clams and salt, without funky additives which I actively try to avoid. If you’re in need of being thrifty though, Snow’s work just as well. It turns out that the trick to making the linguini and clams extra buttery is by combining equal parts butter and olive oil. If you want to be extra, then just use extra amounts. Same goes for the garlic. If you want the “I just ate seven garlic knots before the pizza even came” kind of breath (like I do), then use the whole head of garlic. 

College Linguini and Clams 

  • A half traditional box or bag of organic Italian-imported linguini or gluten-free pasta of your choice 

  • 2-4 tablespoons of salted butter 

  • 2-4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil (make sure you’re using the real deal; see the note below)

  • 4 large cloves - to a whole head of fresh garlic

  • One 6.5 ounce can of chopped clams (with no other ingredients other than clams and maybe salt; I like Bar Harbor)

  • 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice

  • 1 tablespoon of white wine or white wine vinegar

  • 1 teaspoon dry parsley

  • A dash of red pepper flakes

  • 1 tablespoon of cassava flour (or all-purpose flour)

  • Additional EVOO and coarse sea salt for tossing the pasta in 

  1. Get your water boiling in a large pot for the pasta and begin mincing your fresh garlic. 

  2. In a small saucepan, melt the butter and add the olive oil on a medium-low heat. Once you have a nice creamy mix, add the garlic, stirring it around for about a minute, being careful not to burn it. You just want the garlic to become aromatic. 

  3. When your water is boiling, add the pasta and set a timer. I like my pasta perfectly al dente and usually go for the lesser recommended cooking time. 

  4. Add your clams - juice and all - to your buttery garlic blend. Keep the mix on medium-low heat, just bringing it to a low simmer. 

  5. Add your fresh lemon juice, white wine or white wine vinegar, dry parsley, and a dash of red pepper flakes. 

  6. Once the mix has been simmering for a few minutes and the pasta is almost done, add a tablespoon of cassava (or all-purpose) flour, stirring until no lumps of flour remain. If you want a thicker sauce, then you may add half a tablespoon of flour at a time until you reach your desired thickness, but be careful. Sometimes it just takes a moment for the sauce to thicken after adding in the flour. 

  7. Drain your pasta and toss in generous amounts of EVOO and coarse sea salt before adding your clam sauce and stirring it all up until the pasta is evenly coated. 

Enjoy. This recipe feeds three, but every time I make it, I look over at my family and say, “I could eat at least two more plates of that.”

A note on Extra Virgin Olive Oil: If you can afford to, there are all kinds of specialty shops popping up that sell quality olive oil and even offer tastings similar to investing in a good bottle of wine. Since most people can’t realistically afford to buy their olive oil in this way, especially if you use as much as I do when I cook, try to buy organic EVOO in a dark glass bottle in small to medium amounts. Then keep your EVOO in a cool place away from heat and sunlight. The organic promise should help to prevent you buying an olive oil lie (oil that’s mixed with other non-olive oils), while the smaller amount in a dark glass bottle and storing it in a cool dark home should prevent your olive oil from turning, which unfortunately can happen. 

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