Pantry Shelf Pasta with White Clam Sauce

This is one recipe that I can truly claim as my own. I am a little fuzzy about the details concerning exactly how it evolved, but I do recall that I started making it more than thirty years ago when I went back to work full time as a high school history teacher.

WP_20160516_005Our children were both in elementary school. They played youth soccer and other sports and had to be transported to practices and games that were invariably located in different sections of town. I also, unwisely it seems now, decided to pursue a graduate degree at the same time. With lessons to plan, papers to grade, course assignments to complete, meetings to attend and all my old responsibilities to try and keep up with, it was an incredibly busy and hectic time in my life. Still it was  mostly “good busy,” and often my husband was able to help out with the children’s transportation. He never missed one of their games. Most nights we were able to sit down together for a family dinner. I did the cooking and tried to limit prep time to less than an hour.

Spaghetti with white clam sauce became a regular on the menu, but, in order for me to get the dish from the pantry shelf to the table in short order, I had to improvise. I don’t recall if I ever used a particular published recipe as a starting point, but I do know that my family liked the addition of flour to make the sauce adhere better to the pasta, and onions to kick up the flavor and texture. They were perfectly happy with canned clams – fresh clams were definitely not an option. Certainly they were not something one would ordinarily have on hand; cleaning them and disposing of  the shells required time that I did not have. Fresh herbs were less off-putting but not available during the long New England winters before grocery stores regularly sold them year round in their produce departments. After some measure of experimentation, I created my own “guaranteed not to fail” version of white clam sauce for pasta that uses ingredients from the pantry (with the exception of the garlic and onion) and can be put together in less than an hour including the time to make a salad to round out the meal. With the addition of some rolls or Italian bread and a glass of white wine, this dish can be served to guests without apology. I am proud to say that it is my contribution to the recipe boxes of both my mom and my daughter. Ciao`

Ingredients and Instructions for Pantry Shelf Pasta with White Clam Sauce

¼ cup of olive oil

2 T of butter or buttery spread

2 minced cloves of garlic

1 small onion sliced and separated into rings

2 cans of minced or chopped clams (drained with liquid reserved)

2 T of flour

¼ cup of minced parsley or 1 T dried

¼ teaspoon dried oregano

¼ teaspoon of dried basil

Salt and pepper to taste

1 box of linguine or spaghetti cooked according to package directions and drained

Grated Parmesan (optional)


Heat olive oil and butter until the butter has melted.

Add garlic and onions and cook over medium heat until soft and translucent but not brown.

Add drained clams, and sprinkle flour over the mixture, stirring constantly to make a roux.

Add reserved clam liquid and enough water to make 2 cups (sometimes I add a little white wine instead of the water). Stir and let simmer for about 15 minutes.

Add herbs and seasonings.

Serve over pasta and sprinkle with grated Parmesan if desired.

Note: If you have fresh basil and/or fresh oregano, you can substitute about a teaspoon of each for the dried herbs. The flavor will be lighter; my family actually prefers the intensity of the pantry shelf ingredients!



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