Last updated on August 1, 2023

Pasta alle Vongole (clams) ๐Ÿ Traditional Italian recipe

Gianni from All Italian - Author
Gianni from All Italian

Pasta alle vongole is a dish served all over the Italian coast, made with Mediterranean shellfish (but it's also delicious with clams). We are Italians and we share the original recipe, quick and easy.

A plate of Spaghetti alle vongole with parsley, garlic and olive oil.
A plate of Spaghetti alle vongole with parsley, garlic and olive oil. Foto: Par Giulioberg

What is ยซpasta con le vongoleยป?

Pasta alle vongole is one of the most popular dishes in Italian cuisine.
It is often listed on the menus of restaurants and trattorie, along with other very famous recipes such as aglio olio e peperoncino or puttanesca.

Unlike other traditional recipes, ๐Ÿ”Š pasta alle vongole is not typical of a specific region.

In Italy they prepare it with the indigenous vongole from the Mediterranean Sea; but also in other countries you can make an equally good dish with shellfish from the same family as the vongole.
But first: what exactly are vongole?

On this page

Vongole, Italian for clams

Vongola is the Italian name of a bivalve belonging to the Veneridae family, which in many areas of the world are known as Venus clams.

If you order a plate of pasta alle vongole in Italy, it will probably contain two kinds of vongole: the native Mediterranean vongola verace or the vongola filippina (literally filipino vongola) imported from Asia in the 1990s.

Both are fished or farmed all over the coast of the Italian peninsula and in particular in the Adriatic Sea.

The difference for our recipe is that the vongola verace is tastier; the filippina, on the other hand, is easier to breed and therefore more common.

A Venerupis decussata, or Vongola Verace in Italian
A Venerupis decussata, or Vongola Verace in Italian Foto: Cwmhiraeth

You won't find this specific type of clam abroad: but shellfish of the same family live in the seas of most of the world.

How much does a kilo of vongole cost in Italy?

It depends on the region, but in Italy a kilo of vongole can cost between 10 and 20 euros.
With 1 kg vongole you can prepare four portions of spaghetti alle vongole.

Learning Italian ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡น

The correct name is Pasta con le vongole and not Pasta vongole (just as it is not Pasta arrabbiata, but Pasta all'arrabbiata). Handy if you want to make bella figura.

About the clams:

The singular of ๐Ÿ”Š vongole is ๐Ÿ”Š vongola.

๐Ÿ‘‰ In Italian, the animal in the vongole is called ๐Ÿ”Š mollusco (molle means soft in Italian. Molle, therefore mollusco).

But in the context of vongole it is more accurate to translate mollusco as shellfish.

The Italian words we use on this page:

๐Ÿ”Š Conchiglie Shells
๐Ÿ”Š Molluschi Shellfish
๐Ÿ”Š Vongole Clams
๐Ÿ”Š Cozze Mussels

What kinds of pasta with vongole

In italy we traditionally enjoy vongole with long pasta: spaghetti is a classic, but also vermicelli or linguine.
Egg pasta also goes well with vongole, such as tagliatelle.

Pasta con le vongole: optional ingredients

Cherry tomatoes and fresh red chili pepper are great additions to the original recipe and are standard in many pasta alle vongole recipes.

If you use them, saute them both in a pan before adding the vongole.

๐Ÿ‘‰ An ingredient that, according to Italian cuisine, does not go well with this recipe is cheese, even grated cheese: cheese is traditionally rare in Italian fish dishes (with the exception of creamy salmon farfalle).

Having said that, in Italy we are sometimes too serious about our pasta traditions.

For example this couple: ยซThey find rosemary in the pasta with vongole and try to attack the cookยป. Apparently uninvented news, also reported by Il Messaggero - Rome's historical newspaper.

An article in from Italian newspaper entitled: They find rosemary in the pasta with vongole and try to attack the cook
It happened in a restaurant in Porto Recanati, in the De Marken region. Recanati is best known as the town where the Italian poet Giacomo Leopardi was born and raised.

And in any case it's true, rosemary has nothing to do with clams. ๐Ÿ™‚

Spaghetti con le Vongole (clams) ๐Ÿ Authentic Italian recipe

(20) reviews

  • ๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐Ÿณ Easy
  • โฐ 25 min preparation
  • ๐Ÿค— Guaranteed result

Cooking pasta with vongole or clams is quick and easy. The recipe does not involve a long preparation.

The only step that requires care is cleaning the clams.

We prepare the pasta according to the method we always use: while the pasta is cooking in a pot, we cook the vongole in a pan.

We then transfer the pasta from the cooking pot to the pan with the clams and we let it kook for another two minutes, mixing and adding a little pasta water.

In this very simple way we get a really tasty dish. ๐Ÿ‘


Ingredients to make vongole




Ingredient image Ingredient name Cups Grams Ounces
spaghetti Spaghetti 11.3 oz 320 g
vongole Vongole 35 oz 1000 g
garlic Garlic 4 cloves
wine-white White wine 3.5 oz 100 ml
olive-oil Extra Virgin Olive Oil 8 tablespoons
parsley Parsley 1 sprigs
salt Salt 1 pinch
pepper-red Chilli pepper 1 peppers (optional)

How to clean vongole

Vongole live at the bottom of the sea, in the sand. Before using them for our recipe, we need to clean them. We know two ways to do this.

๐Ÿ‘‰ Fresh clams are sold alive. Discard the ones with broken shells or those that remain open before washing: they are probably no longer good to eat.

Method 1 (faster)

  • Beat each vongola on a cutting board to shake the sand;

  • Put the vongole in a colander and rinse several times under running water.

  • Submerge the colander in a basin of water and let the vongole soak for a few minutes. Repeat the operation by changing the water until no more sand remains at the bottom of the basin.

Method 2 - with salt

  • Soak the vongole in a basin of cold water. Add coarse salt: 35 g of salt (about 1.2 oz) for every 1 liter (about 1 US quart) of water, to simulate the salinity of the sea.
    This is to ensure that the vongole, when soaked, lose the sand easily.

  • Soak the vongole in salted water for at least half an hour (but preferably a few hours).

  • Shake the basin and remove the sand at the bottom. Change the water and repeat the operation until there is no more sand at the bottom of the basin.

Can you use frozen vongole with pasta?

Frozen vongole are very tasty and have two advantages: they are usually of excellent quality and are already clean, so you don't have to do the procedure here above.


  1. Heat the water for the pasta

    Once you have cleaned the vongole from the sand and prepared all the ingredients, the first step is to pour cold water into a cooking pot to cook the pasta.

    The amount of water we usually suggest is 1 liter (about 1 US quart) for every 100 g (about 3.5 oz) of pasta.

    ๐Ÿ‘‰ If you want to further speed up cooking times and save gas or electricity, you can use even less water, down to about 0.7 liter / 0.7 US quart.
    In this case, however, you will have to mix often to prevent the paste from sticking.

    Put the lid on the pot while the water is heating.

    See also: how to cook pasta perfectly al dente.

  2. Saute the garlic

    Pour the olive oil in a pan and heat it over medium heat.

    Add the garlic cloves, parsley stems and chili pepper (optional) to flavor the soffritto (as we call this in Italian).

    Sautรฉ on low heat for a few minutes. Be careful not to burn the garlic, it should stay white.

    ๐Ÿ‘‰ Have you noticed? In many other recipes we add fresh parsley when the pasta is ready. But parsley, unlike basil, adds flavor to the dish even if you put it in the sautรฉ.

    Saute the garlic

  3. Cook the vongole or clams in a pan

    First remove the garlic cloves, so that no one finds them on the plate later.

    Then put the vongole in the pan.
    Cook them for a few minutes and then add the white wine.

    Cover the pan with the lid and let the vongole cook over medium heat. The vongole, boiling, will open.

    The goal is to cook the vongole until they open, not more: otherwise the shellfish will be overcooked and difficult to eat.

  4. Cook the pasta

    When the water in the cooking pot is boiling, add a handful of coarse salt.

    ๐Ÿ‘‰ There is also a rule for the amount of salt needed: about 10 g (about 0.35 oz) of salt for every 1 liter (about 1 US quart) of water.

    As soon as you add the salt, the water stops boiling for a minute. Wait for it to boil again and add the pasta.

    To prevent the pasta from sticking, stir briefly as soon as you put the pasta in the pot.

    Cook the pasta

  5. Check whether the vongole are open

    After a few minutes of cooking, the clams should open.

    Remove the clams that have remained closed, because they are not good to eat.

    You can also remove the shells from some of the open vongole, leaving only the shellfish in the pan.
    For example, you can leave 4 or 5 vongole complete with shells for each serving, which is decorative, creating a mix of whole vongole and shellfish on the plate.

    ๐Ÿ‘‰ If the vongole are ready, but the pasta is not yet, put on a low heat: otherwise the vongole will be overcooked.

    As with all pasta recipes, some practice and coordination is required to prepare pasta and sauce at the same time.

    Check whether the vongole are open

  6. Take the pasta to the pan with the vongole

    About two minutes before the pasta is al dente, transfer it from the cooking pot to the pan with the vongole.

    We recommend using a spaghetti spoon to make it easier to catch the long pasta.

    Turn off the heat under the cooking pot, but do not throw away the pasta water yet.

    Take the pasta to the pan with the vongole

  7. Mix pasta en vongole

    Set the heat on medium and continue to cook the spaghetti in the pan with the vongole, gradually adding half a ladle of pasta water to prevent the sauce from becoming too dry.

    Also add more chopped parsley to give the dish even more flavour. Keep some aside to decorate the dish.

    Keep stirring until the pasta is al dente.

    Mix pasta en vongole

  8. Serving

    Place the spaghetti with vongole on the plates and add some raw parsley before serving.

    No grated cheese: in Italy they turn their noses up at any fish dish with cheese. Or if you do, please don't tell your Italian acquaintances ๐Ÿ™‚

Your Pasta alle vongole is ready. Buon appetito! ๐Ÿ

Spaghetti con le Vongole (clams) ๐Ÿ Authentic Italian recipe

Did you like it? Rate this recipe

In the restaurant in Italy, when you finish eating, the waiter will ask: ๐Ÿ”Š andava tutto bene? (was everything fine?)

Recipe rating Italian translation
๐Ÿ”ŠAbbastanza buono
๐Ÿ”ŠNon molto buono
๐Ÿ”ŠNon buono
Placeholder image

Follow our pages on Italian pasta

We frequently update our pages on Italian pasta with new classic and regional traditional recipes.

Over All Italian

Hi! We are Italian expats and have been living abroad for years, currently in the Netherlands. Wherever we go, we carry part of our tradition with us. And we often notice that Italy, its heritage and its lifestyle, are very popular.
Now that we understand a little better the culture of the countries we live in, we want to offer an account with original content about our home country.
We are also writing this blog to practice English, so you will find our writing a little ยซcreativeยป at times. Grazie mille!