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Linguini with White Clam Sauce and Howard Johnson’s

 Linguini with white clam sauce is a cook’s delight. Not only is this pasta recipe delicisioso, it can be made in minutes. Everyone loves this special classic pasta and no need for fresh clams!

Linguini with white clam sauce

 I never had linguini with white clam sauce until I left home.

Mom didn’t make any pasta, except spaghetti, that I remember.

I had to rely on my friends’ Italian mothers to introduce me to other versions of pasta.Their homes are where I first discovered lasagna and manicotti and ziti and rigatoni and cannoli.

I had no idea there was such a plethora of Italian food. I thought Italian food consisted of spaghetti and meatballs and pizza.

Well pasta and I soon became best friends, especially when I went off to college. There I made my first lasagna, really my first everything.

And there I bought my first issue of Bon Appetit and started to cook for all my friends. I discovered that I enjoyed cooking and more importantly, I enjoyed eating.OK.

Finally, the linguini… the linguini with white clam sauce recipe that I discovered from the below book. When I graduated college, a family friend gave me several, very good, cookbooks.

One was Marcella Hazan’s, Classic Italian cookbook, 1976, and I have enjoyed that book ever since.

In case you don’t know Marcella, well she is to Italian food, what Julia Child is to French food.

I probably decided to make this recipe because it is so short. And clams in the can and pasta were pretty cheap when I was in school!

The Classic Italian Cookbook

Oh, mama mia. Never having lived where fresh clams are available, I love this recipe because it can be made with canned clams and it is very tasty. 

I have made this for countless occasions because it is quick and easy and full of garlic and wine.

Add a bit of butter and cheese which is rarely used in Italian clam sauces, though Marcella would tell you that it adds smoothness and delicacy to the sauce.

I have made it for my kids, often on their birthdays, from the age of 7, they have been requesting this.

I remember telling them it was chicken, just like I told them calamari was chicken, and they have loved both ever since. No, I don’t remember when I divulged the truth!

Linguini with white clam sauce

How do you make linguini with clam sauce?

This recipe requires one can of clams. That’s it. Where I live fresh clams are kind of non-existent.

They are already cooked and the clam juice is what is used to make the sauce. This linguini with clam sauce recipe starts with sauteing some garlic and shallots in a bit of olive oil.

Add some parsley, a touch of red chili flakes, stir and add wine. Let it reduce by about half. Just eyeball it!

At this point you can set this aside until you are ready to finish cooking. Just warm it back up before you add your clams.

Now open your can of clams, (try to find baby clams), drain the clam juice into a measuring cup and you should have about 2/3 of a cup.

Add this to the garlic and shallots and boil until clam juice has also been reduced to about half. Now stir in the clams.

The clams are already cooked. You are just warming them in the sauce.

Add butter and cheese to give the sauce richness and this is ready to be served. I usually toss the white clam sauce with the pasta and then serve on individual plates.

Howard Johnson's restaurant

 Being the good Jewish girl I am, meant we never ate shellfish at home, but I quickly became enamored with the many different types.

The first place I encountered clams was in the fried state at my good friend Howard Johnson’s.

Howard Johnson’s is not a place I frequent very often. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve been to one since I was an under age teenager in Kankakee.

For that matter, I’m not even sure Ho Jo’s still exists. But when it did-well, let’s just say I have good memories of Howard Johnson’s.

Howard Johnson's ice cream ad

(In case you have no idea what I’m talking about-Howard Johnson’s was a motel chain that had a restaurant attached.) I remember that it had a strong turquoise and orange color palate and many natural materials, like vinyl, that covered the booths.

When you walked in there was a large ice cream counter right inside the front door.

Kankakee didn’t have a lot of choices when it came to ice cream and my mom was an ice cream fanatic.

We would often make a trip to get ice cream after certain school events; such as a play or a musical performance-those all called for ice cream, and away we went to Ho Jo’s.

I think when Baskin Robbins moved to town that about did poor Ho Jo’s in.

I also remember Ho Jo’s because it stayed open late. After making it into high school and finding friends that drove; we always needed somewhere to drive.

Because Howard Johnson’s wasn’t far away, it was often on our list to satisfy our late night munchies.

Eating a second dinner was one way we would waste our money.

And yes, it was at Ho Jo’s, I believe, that I first had a clam roll. Clams were not something my mom would have ever made. so yes, it must have been Howard Johnson’s where I first had clams.

I loved the fried itsy bitsy clams that came on a soft white bun with white tartar sauce on the side.

They were so sweet and crispy and totally satisfied for a second dinner.

At this point we  needed something to soak up all the beer in our tummies, before we made the drive home, snuck in the house and hoped to evade our sleeping parents.

Howard Johnson's menu

Yeah, that’s how I remember Ho Jo’s. Well, that and the ice cream!

I missed HoJo’s when I went off to college, though I did find a substitute though for those itty bitty fried clams. Thank you, Mrs. Pauls! 

Kankakee wasn’t exactly on the water unless you count the river, and no clams or seafood were coming from that river.

Perhaps a catfish, but I wouldn’t have eaten it. There was many a fish fry in Kankakee County, but somehow I discovered shellfish.

And who would have thought I’d have Howard Johnson’s to thank?

Time to post this recipe. My kids love it and have for many years. I bet yours will also.

Yes I know, we still have to do goat cheese chile rellano peppers. I will get to them, I promise. But today, it is linguini. Mangia!

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Linguini with White Clam Sauce

Linguini with White Clam Sauce

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 2 reviews
  • Author: Abbe Odenwalder
  • Prep Time: 15 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 Minutes
  • Total Time: 25 Minutes
  • Yield: 4 Servings
  • Category: Main Course
  • Method: Stove Top
  • Cuisine: Italian


Linguini with white clam sauce, prepared the classic Italian way with  garlic and wine and a touch of cheese, is simple to make and tastes divine.


1 10 oz can baby clams

1 T chopped shallots or yellow onion

1/2 c olive oil

1 t chopped garlic

2 T chopped fresh Italian parsley

1/4 t dried hot pepper flakes

1/4 c dry white wine

1 T butter

2 T freshly grated parmesan cheese


1 lb good linguine cooked al dente ( Nothing ruins a pasta dish more than overcooked pasta. Use a timer and cook according to package directions. Always salt your water to give the pasta flavor. And never rinse. Ever. Just drain.)


  • Put the shallots in a small pot with the oil and saute over medium high heat until translucent.
  • Add the garlic and saute until lightly colored. Add the parsley and dried hot pepper flakes, stir three or four times, then add the wine.
  • Boil until wine has reduced by about half. Estimate, please! Now if you want to stop here for a break you can. This will keep for a few hours if the kids are late from soccer practice.
  • Now strain the can of clams into a measuring cup, and save the clam juice. You should have about 2/3 of a cup. If there is more discard it. Add the juice to the sauce and boil until this is reduced by half.
  • Add the clams, turn them quickly in the hot sauce and turn off the heat. Add the butter and cheese and mix well. Taste and correct for salt. Usually this is good without extra salt.
  • Toss cooked pasta with sauce and serve immediately with extra cheese.


From Marcella Hazan

Recipe rating 5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star


Saturday 8th of April 2023

I was delighted that it called for canned baby clams. Up here in northern Alberta fresh clams are prohibitively priced. Even the grocery stores are charging $6/can. A new huge dollar store opened a few blocks away. The clams were $1.20 and canned tuna was $1.19 as opposed to $4.00 in the stores. He went in for glue and came home with quite a haul lol.


Monday 10th of April 2023

Manservant always does that! I also have a hard time finding clams so this recipe works great! Glad you enjoyed and thanks for the comment!


Saturday 8th of April 2023

Just made this for dinner. First time for this dish and I loved it and Mr. Personality even liked it! Wonderful recipe- so simple yet so very flavourful! This one’s a keeper.


Tuesday 22nd of November 2022

This recipe is AWESOME —easy, packed with flavor and miles ahead of anything out of a can! Best clam sauce I’ve EVER made! Only change I made was stock instead of wine—didn’t have any. I also added a squeeze of lemon at the end— perfection!


Tuesday 22nd of November 2022

Thanks Gretchen! That’s because Marcella Hazan is a great Italian cook. Her cookbooks are awesome!


Monday 20th of June 2022

I made this for dinner tonight. Oh my goodness, it was so delicious! I made linguine with clam sauce years ago, but forgot the ingredients. I remembered as I was following your recipes, to add some low sodium chicken broth. All I can say is yummmmm😋😋😋😋😋


Monday 20th of June 2022

I'm so happy you liked it! My kids used to request it every year for their birthday!

Guru Uru

Sunday 29th of September 2013

I feel like linguini with a raging passion now :DDelicious!