Italian restaurants in the U.S. are like cheese and cream minefields. When a friend offers to meet up for a night out, I always say “anything but Italian!” But authentic Italian food is actually light on dairy. Take linguine with clam sauce, for instance. It’s not uncommon to see recipes that add butter to the sauce, or sprinkle on parmesan for garnish. Some American restaurants even add cream (gasp!). But in Italy, these additions would be rather unorthodox. Because linguine with clam sauce is meant to be dairy free.
Linguine with Clam Sauce that’s Authentically Dairy-Free
This naturally dairy-free linguine with clam sauce recipe is in line with the traditional in bianco version. It calls for oil, garlic, parsley, and white wine, and is seasoned simply with salt and pepper. The idea of the dish is to showcase the pasta, olive oil, and fresh clams. Adding cream or cheese would simply mask these quality ingredients.
On that note, be sure to use good quality olive oil, and fresh pasta would make this dinner a real treat! If you need gluten-free, make sure the cooking times work well with the type of pasta you use. Gluten-free pasta can be a little finicky.
Special Diet Notes: Linguine with Clam Sauce
By ingredients, this recipe is dairy-free / non-dairy, egg-free, optionally gluten-free, nut-free, peanut-free, and soy-free.
- 24 littleneck clams (about 2 pounds in shell)
- Kosher salt, as needed
- 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- ⅓ cup dry white wine
- 5 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided
- 3 large garlic cloves, minced, divided
- 8 ounces linguine (gluten-free, if needed)
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste (optional)
- Scrub the clams under cold water, then place them in a large bowl and cover with cool water. Add about 1 tablespoon salt and swirl with your hands to dissolve the salt. Let the clams sit for about 30 minutes at room temperature to purge any grit.
- Without disturbing the sediment in the bowl, transfer the clams to a colander and rinse with cold water. Discard any open clams that don’t close when tapped.
- Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a heavy 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the pepper flakes and cook briefly to infuse the oil, about 20 seconds.
- Add the wine, 2 tablespoons of the chopped parsley, and half of the minced garlic. Cook for 20 seconds.
- Add the clams. Cover and cook over medium-high heat, checking every 2 minutes and removing each clam as it opens. It will take 5 to 7 minutes total for all the clams to open.
- Transfer the clams to a cutting board and reserve the broth.
- You can leave the clams in their shells, for presentation, or remove the clams from the shells and cut them in half, or quarters if they’re large. Return the clams to the broth (whether in their shells or not). Discard the shells if not using.
- Cook the pasta until slightly firmer than al dente. Reserve about ½ cup of the pasta cooking water before draining the cooked pasta.
- While the pasta is cooking, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons chopped parsley and the remaining minced garlic and cook until the garlic is just soft, about 1 minute. Remove the skillet from the heat.
- Add the cooked pasta, the clams, and the broth the clams were cooked in to the skillet.
- Place the skillet over low heat, toss the pasta in the sauce and simmer for another minute to finish cooking it. Add pasta water, as needed, if the pasta is too dry.
- Season with salt and black pepper (I use about ¼ teaspoon of each).
- Serve the pasta, clams, and sauce in shallow bowls.
Clam Up! If you want more shellfish flavor in the sauce, you can substitute store bought clam juice for the pasta water.
More Seafood? Go right ahead! If making this recipe for a full 3 servings, you might want to use 36 clams (3 pounds). Of you can add scallops or other shellfish.