Linguine with Clam Sauce

Foods can evoke memories in a major way.  Every single time I smell this dish cooking, I’m immediately transported back to our kitchen in my house growing up.  I can hear “All Things Considered” on NPR coming from the radio as my dad prepared dinner for us.  My mom died when I was 10, and my brothers were six and four.  Somehow my dad still cooked well balanced meals for us pretty much every night as we grew up.  Sure, sometimes it was semi-homemade things like Hamburger Helper but looking back with only one child of my own and an extremely helpful husband, I truly don’t know how he did it.  When Mom found out her illness was terminal, she started planning and preparing and doing things to help us after she wasn’t around anymore.  One of those things was to go through all our family cookbooks and put notes on the recipes that we kids liked.

This recipe comes from a now out of print cookbook that our family enjoyed.  It still has Mom’s post-it taped to the cover (as many of our cookbooks do).  The author hosted an old popular cooking show called The Frugal Gourmet that my mom found very amusing.  I remember watching it with her even though I had no interest in cooking at the time, and I thought it was funny too.  I had never considered sharing this recipe before because it didn’t seem blog-worthy.  I mean, it takes about 15 minutes and uses canned clams for Pete’s sake.  But, this is where I share all the recipes I love, easy and complex, fancy and decidedly not so, so I’m sharing it here.  We love this dinner in our household, it holds a special place in my heart, and that’s all that matters to me!

Linguine with Clam Sauce
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12 oz. linguine pasta
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 (6.5 oz) cans minced clams, juices reserved
½ cup heavy cream (or half-and-half)
Salt and pepper
Grated Parmesan, for serving

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.  Cook pasta according to the package directions until al dente.  Drain well.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet or saucepan, heat the olive oil and butter over medium-high heat until the butter is completely melted.  Add the garlic to the pan and sauté until golden and fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add the reserved clam juice to the pan, bring to a simmer, and reduce by about half.  With the heat on medium-low, stir in the clams and the heavy cream.  Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

Portion the pasta into warmed serving bowls.  Spoon some of the sauce over the pasta and top with grated Parmesan, if desired.  Serve immediately.

Source: The Frugal Gourmet Cooks with Wine by Jeff Smith

60 Responses

  1. This post was so tender and brought a tear to my eye. Thank you for sharing this. I think the sentiment behind it makes it one of the best recipes ever…and why I am going to try this with my family.

  2. What a nice memory! I personally think we should share all recipes we love no matter. As working mom’s or just cooks we sometimes DO take shortcuts and that’s okay. I just shared a recipe that has the no-no of can soup but…’s a great recipe. Your recipe sounds lovely. Thanks for sharing it!

  3. Thank you for sharing that memory of your family!

    My mom is still alive; however I recently went through a lot of her recipes–she doesn’t really have a filing system, so she has a tendency to “forget” about certain ones we loved over the years. Going through these recipes was like a trip through my childhood–all these dinners and recipes that I can remember eating and loving. She had a few special requests after that project!!

  4. I adore clam sauce, so I have no excuse as to why I haven’t made it at home. This recipe sounds great, so it’s going onto my “to make” list!

  5. There is nothing better than a family recipe, no matter how simple.

  6. I have never made pasta with clam sauce. Always something I wasn’t very comfortable making. This recipe looks really easy and yummy.

  7. Great idea! I looove linguine recipes.

  8. what a touching story to share… this used to be one of my favorite dishes but i’ve never even thought to make it myself

  9. Thanks for sharing with us such a personal memory.It seems to me that your blog is following in your mothers thoughtful footsteps.I will definitely try this and think of you and your parents as I do so!

  10. I guess you could add an alternative to the recipe in case you wanted to “make it blog worthy” – purchase airfare to the Oregan Coast, Go clamming. Shuck you clams, mince you clams and cook them before putting them in the recipe.

  11. Thanks, Annie for the sweet story and sharing a special part of your family with us. I was just telling my husband last night that I wanted to make a seafood dish next week and here you are with this one! Thanks! 🙂

  12. What a wonderful story, Annie! Memories, not ingredients, are what make meals special.

  13. Thanks for sharing Annie. I actually make this all the time for my boyfriend, it is his favorite, though I usually use wine instead of cream. I will have to try it this way!

  14. I grew up watching The Frugal Gourmet! Food is so evocative for memories; thank you for sharing this story with us.

  15. what a beautiful post. thank you for sharing your memories with us Annie 🙂

  16. linguine with clam sauce is delicious! lovely post, thanks for sharing 🙂

  17. That looks so lovely! I have never eaten clam, but I’m sure your dish must taste wonderful.



  18. I’m crying like a baby here, woman. What a lovely memory to share with us. This looks great. I’ll probably try with some fresh little neck clams, as I can get them for free.

  19. Annie, what a beautiful post. You successfully made me cry this morning. I too, firmly believe that food has a way of evoking old memories and childhood experiences. My mom was also a big fan of The Frugal Gourmet. This dish looks wonderful!

  20. i love this post! thank you for sharing this memory with us! i look forward to making this for my family.

  21. Annie, I think that your mom would be incredibly proud of what you’ve accomplished in your life and the passion for food you share with people through your food blog! I am lucky to have my mom still with me but I know the time will come when she isn’t. She’s a fantastic home cook and I know I will have many regrets if I don’t write down her recipes or find some way to capture them before she leaves us. My mom is one of those “a pinch of this/that” and doesn’t measure anything! Thanks for sharing your story with us.

  22. What a sweet story about your mom and dad.
    I used to sit in the floor every single day and watch The Frugal Gourment when I was in preschool! I have no idea why I loved it so much, but for whatever reason, that was part of my daily routine. 🙂 This is my hubby’s favorite dish- I made it for his birthday last year!

  23. So glad you decided to share this recipe, since it comes from the heart. What special memories and what a special mother you had! You must take after her! 🙂

  24. All right, you got me to have a lump in my throat. I’ve made this with canned clams and enjoyed it just fine, but if you have a fish monger where you can get chowder clams, it will elevate it to restaurant quality. The chowder clams are quahogs and need to be simmered about 10 minutes to tenderize.

  25. Thanks for sharing such a personal story. My mother-in-law makes this same dish and I love it! I look forward to having it for dinners at her house. It is one of my new found comfort foods, canned clams and all!

  26. loved this story annie. and i love simple and quick recipes that are easy to throw together like this. ive made a lot of the recipes you have posted. just made the salmon with strawberry salsa last night. we loved it!

  27. This is such a great memory. Linguine and clams also brings me back to my childhood as this was the only meal my dad really knew how to make. Granted he used canned clam sauce, but at least he tried! 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

  28. Nostalgia! This recipe is the first thing I learned to make for company. My dog eared copy of the frugal gourmet cooks with wine is my most used cookbook.

  29. What a sweet post! I used to watch the Frugal Gourmet with my mother too.

  30. What a precious memory of your dad. I can not imagine, either, how hard that was for him. And for your mom…making sure you still had your favorite foods after she was gone. That is such an example of beautiful motherly love.

    I remember the Frugal Gourmet (was his first name Jeff?). I have never used cream in clam sauce, but I may just have to try it now.

    Thanks for sharing today.

    PS Thanks for the Ham and Cheese Slider recipe, too. I shared it on my blog. I’ve seen that recipe a hundred times but for some reason never tried it until you posted it.

  31. I have many fond memories of watching the frugal gourmet with my parents when I was young. Our family favorite is his recipe for New York cheesecake. This recipe looks delicious and definitely blog worthy. I’m definitely saving this one to try! Thanks for sharing.

  32. Great Post! This dish looks great and I can’t wait to try it.

  33. what a touching post. i will try this recipe as soon as i pick up some clams. i like recipes like this it is tasty looking and it doesn’t take a long time. thank you!

  34. This is what cooking is all about, Annie, finding love and comfort and nourishment in food and in memories. What a lovely post from a cookbook my mom also had all marked up!

  35. What a very touching story. It made me cry! Thank you for sharing. My husband loves linguine with clam sauce, but we usually just buy canned sauce. I’m guessing this is much better!

  36. Lovely memories Annie, and cooking the food your mother made for you is an act of love and remembrance every time you do it. This is what keeps loved ones alive in our hearts. I still cook family recipes from my youth from over 40 years ago, and though I lost my Dad 14 years ago and my Mother 5 years ago, whenever I cook their Lentil And Vegetable Broth, it takes me back to the kitchen with them, helping to prep the leeks and carrots and beans. You are creating memories for your little boy too, that he will remember in 50+ years and more.

  37. I made this tonight! It was wonderful! Thank you for the story and the recipe.

  38. What a beautiful post. Having just recently lost my mother to a terminal illness, I read this with tears in my eyes. Years ago, Mom and I would watch The Frugal Gourmet together on Saturdays and that was the show that taught us both how to cook. Thank you for sharing not only your wonderful recipes, but also part of yourself.

  39. Thank you for sharing such a heartfelt, personal memory with us! I believe my love of cooking stems partly from feeling that my mom served us love on a plate! I cook some of same dishes she served us, and my grandmother served her, to my family. They might not be fitting of print in Gourmet magazine, but I couldn’t imagine not having them in my repertoire! Truly food for the soul! Kudos to your dad…That’s one hell of a good Father!!

  40. I love your blog, but never comment…couldn’t resist this time. My mom passed away almost 9 years ago, and what I treasure most are her hand-written recipes. I especially love the ones with stains from spilled vanilla, oil, etc. Love went into those recipes. And while we didn’t watch The Frugal Gourmet, we’d sit on the floor in front of the tv eating steaming bowls of canned (!) tomato soup and grilled cheese and watching Guiding Light. Thanks for sharing your memories, and reminding me of mine 🙂

  41. For my 50th birthday, my mother put together a lovely recipe book with matching notecards with all the family recipes from my grandmother and herself and the best thing is that they are written in her handwriting. I still get choked up about it–so much work it was for her. It is decidedly the best gift I have ever been given. Your story is a sweet one and I’m glad you still have those handwritten notes. I am lucky that my Mom is very much alive at 81; I got her her first computer last year. She is on Facebook and loves food blogs!

  42. What great parents you have. And how wonderful to have both through recipes, but in very different ways.

  43. What a touching intro. Linguine with CANNED clam sauce was also a big hit at our house growing up. There’s nothing wrong with easy!

  44. Annie, thank you for sharing this recipe and the memories connected with it with your readers . As someone said before, your mother has any right to be very very proud of her daughter. I’m sure she’s watching you while cooking this dish, wearing a smile on her face. My mom gave my grandmothers cookbook to me a while ago, and it’s become my biggest treasure. I can almost feel her presence when I see the oil-stained pages and neat handwriting. Much Love from Germany…

  45. thanks for sharing this memory.

  46. what a sweet story to accompany the recipe. thanks for posting 🙂

  47. Of course this is blogworthy! This dish is important to you so it will be important to us as well. It sounds and looks delicious. I will think of your mom when I make it for sure! Thanks for sharing with us!

  48. This is more than blogworthy as memories of your past and family are so special! Without a doubt I am going to prepare this dish. I tag and mark my cookbooks with my notes and one day my daughter will pick up a book and have these same fond memories. Thanks for sharing!

  49. Annie….thank you for sharing your touching story with all of us…I appreciate your blog very much…you never cease to amaze!

    Jeannette M.

  50. Mmm, this was a favorite of mine as a kid. I’m definitely going to give this a try 🙂
    Beautiful story. Thanks for sharing!

  51. I will be cooking this meal. Thank you for sharing a great memory!

  52. I love recipes with a story behind it. Before I started my blog in July this year, I don’t really know how to cook. Only now, have I started to learn the traditional Straits Chinese cuisine of my Mum who just turned 75. She cooks fabulously and all her specialties are divine. My hubby is also a good cook and he is a Westerner. During the documentation of my mother’s traditional food and my hubby’s Western food, I found the joy in cooking and loving it. To my own surprise, I have created recipes combining the 2 cultures and they were approved by family and friends who have tasted them. Food, cooking and sharing are indeed the avenues of joy in life. Thanks for sharing a wonderful memory and great recipe!

  53. Annie, very touching story. Your mother sounds like a very special woman. I too am a surviver of motherloss and have cookbooks with my mother’s notes. I hold them near and dear to my heart.

    I made this meal this evening and my daughter asked for “thirds.” It’s a keeper, thank you for sharing!

  54. What a beautiful post, I am so glad you told the story behind the recipe. That is what makes cooking such an emotionally fulfilling hobby!!

  55. Oh Annie, I’m shedding a few tears (okay, a lot of tears) When your mom was sick she gave me this recipie and asked me to make it for her. I’m so glad you put it on your blog…it such a good dish! I think of her everytime I get it out. I remember her plan to make sure she marked those recipies and how she worried that your dad would fix only toasted cheese sandwiches. I knew better. He’s a great dad. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful memory!

  56. I just made this recipe and it was very good, thanks! I made it as directed except subbed evaporated milk for heavy cream and it worked perfectly for me (I don’t routinely keep heavy cream on hand).

  57. i made this last night and thought it was delicious. i got a little freaked out at the “reduce by half” i kept saying, “is it reduced by half, i don’t know.” anyway, tasted great.

    i am reminded, every time i cook, just how much i am like my mom: i burn myself almost daily. i dont’ mind the pain so much anymore, it means i’m taking good care of my family, just like my mom did.

  58. Hi Annie! This was the first recipe I made from your site too. What a wonderful easy meal and I shared your story with my family while we enjoyed. Thanks to you and your parents for a wonderful recipe that will grace our dinner table often!

  59. Hi Annie: I was browsing the site looking for cupcake recipes (found red velvet and eggnog recipes that I am going to make for Christmas after my daughter requested cupcakes) when I came across the clam sauce recipe. I make clam sauce all the time and although I am sure yours is delicious, may I suggest that you might try it with a little diced shallots and dried oregano for a little more flavor. I saute the shallots with the garlic and if you have some, a little white wine, the oregano, then complete as you would your recipe. Just a thought for something different.

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