White Clam Sauce

White Clam Sauce

OK, there’s red clam sauce and white clam sauce, but if you’ve got fresh clams why would you want to mask their sweet, briney flavor with tomatoes?


This is another one of those recipes with few ingredients, little prep and short cooking time, so it’s perfect for a quick hot lunch. I always set some sauce aside for a pizza, or a Clam Pie, as they say in New Haven. I am not taking sides in the Pepe’s vs. Sally’s debate.

My preferred clam is a big fat Rhode Island Quahog, but a smaller cherrystone will do. Quahogs aren’t sold very far from the coast, though, because most folks won’t eat them on the half-shell, considering they’re only fit for mincing for stuffies or chowder, thinking them too big to fit in the mouth. But, that’s just another one of those misguided & “expert” opinions as there is nothing so great as a mouthful of plump, briney-sweet quahog, chewed, not gulped.

In any case pound for pound of meat, quahogs are a better deal.


– 6 large whole live quahogs or 10 cherrystones, shucked over bowl to catch their juices
– 1/3 med. sweet onion, minced
– 6 cloves garlic, minced
– 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
– olive oil
– 8 oz. bottle of clam juice
– 1/2 cup dry cider or white wine
– 1 strip thick cut bacon, minced
– flour
– salt
– fresh ground black pepper


Mince the clams and drain any juice from the cutting board into the bowl of reserved juice from opening and shucking the clams.

In a medium skillet add 2 tbsp oil and cook the bacon over med. heat till brown and crispy, add the onion and sautée till translucent. Add the garlic and continue to sautée until garlic is translucent, but not browned, adding oil as needed to keep the ingredients bubbling. Stir- in most of the parsley and sautèe for another minute. Add cider and cook until mostly evaporated.

Stir-in 2 tbsp of flour to make a paste, and continue stirring and flipping the bubbling paste to cook evenly for 2 minutes and prevent it from sticking and burning. Add flour as needed 1 tbsp at a time to stiffen if too wet or more oil to thin if too dry to bubble. Add one bottle of clam juice and enough water to thoroughly dissolve the flour paste and continue stirring with a wooden spatula scraping along the bottom of the skillet to keep the sauce from sticking and burning. Add water as needed to keep a saucy consistency. Stir-in the shucking and mincing juices. Add the clams, cover, turn-off burner and let clam flavor steep into the sauce for 10 minutes before serving. Added at the end the clams retain their fresh sweet flavor and the character of the sauce develops considerably.

Mix in some fresh oil and serve over linguini garnished with the reserved pinches of parsley. A light dusting of parmesan is okay, but not if you want to savor the pure clam flavor. You don’t need to drown the pasta in sauce. Save some for that Clam Pie.

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