Steamed Clams in a White Wine Sauce

Summer seafood special: steamers!  (I love me some alliteration 😉 )  Seafood is a favorite in our household, but lately we haven’t made it too frequently.  Until this past week, since it was my boyfriend’s birthday.  I decided to surprise him with steamed clams in a white wine basil sauce and some leftover artisan bread for dinner.  It turned out so freaking good! 

It was such a great dish, because we already had the butter, oil, garlic, onion, pasta, basil and seasonings at home.  All I had to do was go out and procure the clams!  Bonus:  there’s this seafood market within walking distance from our apartment.  So I took advantage of the close proximity and walked on over and grabbed 30 little neck clams.  I was ambitious and figured we could tackle 15 clams per person.  Mainly I figured if I could eat 10, I could pawn off the other 5 to him… He didn’t seem to mind. 

First thing is first, when purchasing seafood, you want to make sure that it has a pleasant sea aroma.  (Yes, seafood can have a pleasant sea smell.)  If it has a putrid or super strong odor, it’s not good and shouldn’t be used.  You also want to make sure, specifically with clams, that the container the clams are being stored in on your way home from the market allows for air.  Hence why you will see fresh claims in a mesh bag.  Otherwise the clams could die and they won’t be safe for consumption.

After checking the odor, clean the clams by rinsing them with cool water in a colander.  Rinse them 3-4 times and use your fingers to scrub the shells. 

After you’ve rinsed them, leave the clams in a large bowl covered with cold fresh water for 20 minutes.  Since clams are bottom feeders, they tend to suck up sand and other gunk on the ocean floor.  That being said, this cool bath will help the clams to dispel any sand that they may still contain.  When they “breathe” in the fresh water and “exhale” out the salt water they had retained, the sand will be expelled with it.

You may notice that some of the clams may start to open slightly in the cold water, but if you give them a gentle tap they should close.  If they don’t close after a moment or two, discard that clam as it is dead and should not be eaten.

While the clams are cooling down in their nice little ice bath, let’s start preparing their skillet sauna.  First thing’s first though, let’s bring a pot of salted water to a boil. I like doing this first, so that when I need to through the pasta in I’m not scrambling around trying to get the pot on and water boiling before my main dish is ready.  (All about reducing the stress.

Next, in an 8-qt skillet or pot, melt the butter and oil on medium heat.  Add the onions and sauté until soft.  Next, add the minced garlic and stir for 30 seconds.  Off heat, add the bottle of white wine.  We do this off heat so that you don’t accidently flambé your face.  When alcohol is added to a pot/pan on direct heat it has a tendency to flare up.  We’d like to prevent that from happening, so just turn the burner off, or simply move the pot/skillet to another burner when you add the wine.  Your face will thank you later.

After adding the wine, add the clams and cover with a tight fitting lid.  Bring to a simmer and let those buggers steam in their yummy white wine and garlic bath for about 5-10 minutes, or until they all open.  You’ll notice that some may stay closed, or don’t open all of the way.  That means that they aren’t good.  Don’t pry them open, just discard them.  We had maybe 3 or 4 out of 30 that didn’t open, so don’t worry, you’ll still have plenty left to feast upon. Yum!

While the clams are steaming, throw your linguine in the salted pot of boiling water.  The clams and the pasta should be finished within a minute or two of one another.  Once the pasta is finished, use a colander to drain the pasta and set aside.  Once the clams are done, turn off the heat and add the red pepper flakes, pepper and basil and stir together.  In a large serving bowl, combine the pasta with the clams and pour over the white wine clam broth.  Mix together with tongs and then divide equally into bowls and serve with a slice of crusty artisan bread!

I hope you enjoy this seafood recipe! Please feel free to share your pictures of your own Steamed Clams on Instagram and tag me @starknakedcooking!  I’d love to see how they come out!

As always, thank you for cooking with me on Stark Naked Cooking and have a wonderful Fourth of July weekend.  Stay safe! 

Buen provecho!


Steamed Clams in a White Wine Sauce
Serves 2
Bring the ocean to your home with a delicious and simple summer meal of steamed clams served with pasta in a white wine sauce.
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
35 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
35 min
  1. 3 T. Butter
  2. 3 T. Olive Oil
  3. 1/4 Cup Yellow Onion, Medium diced
  4. 1 T. Garlic, Minced (Roughly 2 cloves)
  5. 1 (750 ml) Bottle of White Wine, Sweet or dry
  6. 3 lbs. Little Neck Clams (Roughly 30 little necks)
  7. Pinch of Red Pepper Flakes
  8. Pinch of Pepper
  9. 1.5 T. Basil, Chopped
  10. 1 lb. Linguine or Fettucine, Cooked per package directions
Cleaning Clams
  1. Use your olfactory sense! Smell the clams. They should have a pleasant sea smell. (Yes, seafood can have a pleasant sea smell.) Any super strong or pungent aromas are a no-go.
  2. Rinse the clams in a colander. Make sure to scrub them well with your hands.
  3. Let sit in a large bowl of cold fresh water for 20 minutes. Clams are bottom-feeders, so you want to make sure that they syphon out any sand that may be inside. By allowing them to soak in the fresh water, they will remove sand when they "breathe" in the fresh water and "exhale" the salt water.
  4. Because the water is cold, some of the clams may slightly open. If you touch them, or tap them gently, they should close back up in a moment or two if they are still alive. Discard any clams that remain open, as they are dead, and that's no bueno.
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Generously season the water with salt. This adds flavor to the pasta when cooking.
  2. Cook per package directions.
Steaming Clams
  1. Meanwhile, in an 8-qt pot, or skillet, melt butter and oil on medium heat. Add onions and sauté until soft, roughly 5 minutes.
  2. Add garlic and stir for 30 seconds.
  3. Add wine, off heat, then the clams and cook with the lid closed for 5-10 minutes, or until the clams have opened.
  4. Add the basil, season with red pepper flakes and pepper and stir.
  5. Discard any clams that have NOT opened fully.
  6. Serve with a crusty piece of artisan bread!
  1. Just a Little Tip (JLT): When I am making pasta, I like to get the pot of salted water going before I start anything else, so that when I need to through the pasta in, it's bath is already ready. Otherwise, I've been left scrambling trying to get water boiling while the main attraction is already finished.
Stark Naked Cooking

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