spaghetti with white clam sauce: aka, thomas keller is trying to kill us

April 27th, 2008 · 50 Comments

the people over at ‘serious eats’ may have their own version of this (and in multi-parts), which i do find amusing, but so you know, i simply can not STAND this woman – her food will never touch my culinary radar, the mere thought of possibly cooking any of her unappealing southern fat-bomb recipes repels me beyond belief – which unfortunately conjures up her tv persona, which then immediately throws me into apoplexy, causing me to try and scratch my eyes out…  but hey, that’s just me.

pd on crack while her followers drink the lard laced kool-aid

but back to reality.  thomas, i love.  especially after my ‘per se’ experience and watching both his charlierose interviews.  the man is a brilliant chef and well, i applaud everything he stands for.  and i am absolutely sure that tk is voting democratic – hoping for obama and that he’s a james taylor fan and loves puppies. 

but still as wonderful as i know keller must be, if you make his pasta with white clam sauce, you could possibly die of a heart attack – on the spot.  but dear readers, know this – you will die happy. and well, not everyone can say that. but then again, who could really gauge this, as you’d be having to poll dead people, and that right there would be seemingly one hell of an unpleasant task. 

for the record, i made this dish two nights in a row.  but i have long history with tempting fate…

awhile back i read french laundry at home’s post about this dish and i knew i’d be making this one recipe from that beautiful book – if only this one.  because if you follow carol’s cooking adventures you will plainly see that tk’s food is a 10 on the difficulty scale – and well,  i can’t do 10’s.  way too many pots and pans to clean up which goes against my personal at-home-cooking principles.  but carol promised me this was easy and i had 3 lbs of clams in my refrigerator because i had been to costco on a friday and it was their SEAFOOD ROAD SHOW’ weekend which always, but always cracks me up – as costco’s ‘seafood road show’ is not much of a ‘show on the road’ at all, and more of a dead crustaceans on ice kinda thing.

so… back to the pasta.  and not just any pasta – but the king of all pastas… this pasta is to die from – i mean, for.  and it is quite simply – 8 ounces (1 3/4 cup) of flour, 1 egg, 6 yolks, 1 T milk, 1.5 t olive oil.  wait… what’s that you say?  7 egg yolks for 8 ounces of flour?  am i kidding, you ask?  well, thomas says so.  and thomas knows.  so stop asking questions and slowly incorporate your flour into the egg mixture, forming the dough into a ball, lightly flour your workspace – and then knead and knead some more – about 20 solid minutes worth.  then wrap the dough tightly in plastic and let it rest for an hour.  by the way, michael ruhlman suggests that you do this in a bowl – and so do i.  because then there is no worry of the inevitable "egg breaking through the flour dam" fiasco, with the entire sticky mess spilling out onto your black suede puma’s which would be a total drag.  anyway, i happen to have a big flat bottomed glass bowl and it is now for pasta making. 

and then just make your pasta.  see how i threw that out so flippantly?  here, let me say it again.  then just make your pasta.  cause hey, i now make pasta.  often.  and it is so fun.  so satisfying.  so beautiful and oh so very amazing and even more than any of that – it tastes freakin’ great.  it is so very worth the effort.  and you get to burn tens of calories kneading the dough.  so the first bite of whatever you’re making?  it doesn’t count.  and if you stop there, you will be even.  just one bite and then push away from the table.  that’s the secret,  you’re welcome.

this was for a double batch…

on my want list?  a pasta rack…

a tangle of yolky pasta goodness…

oh, and one small thing.  i bought the kitchen aid pasta rollers and they totally ROCK.  i refuse to clamp and crank and i am willing to shell out the bucks in the name of fresh pasta.  $135+ at your retail dealer – i paid $81 on ebay including shipping.  now i’ve got 3 options and 9 thicknesses (coincidentally, the same as the shimano gears on my bike), the sheets, spaghetti and fettuccine.  i am so loving my kitchen aid mixer these days more than ever…

and then you make the clam sauce.  if you like white clam sauce then all i can say is that this is the quintessential recipe.  throw away the others.  embrace the butter and have yourself a culinary orgasm.

spaghetti with white clam sauce
dared to be adapted from
‘the french laundry cookbook’ by thomas keller

keller makes this into pretty twirly things in a clam shell atop a bed of heated rock salt.  i, on the other hand, do not.  i double the recipe and then make a trough of it and you stick your face into the bowl and eat.  or… just serve in individual bowls and use a fork.  either way.  i am honestly not here to judge you…

1 head of garlic
2 t butter
a sprinkle of sea salt

36 little neck clams – soaked in water for several hours changing the water a few times
4 cloves of garlic, unpeeled and slightly crushed
2 large shallots – roughly chopped
4 sprigs of thyme
4 bay leaves
1 cup of crisp dry white wine such as sauvignon blanc or muscadet

roasted garlic puree (from recipe above)
reserved clam broth (from recipe above)
24 T (12 oz) of butter cut into small pieces (fyi – i used 9 oz)
1 T of white wine vinegar

1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 T fresh thyme leaves
black pepper

heat your oven to 300 f.  take a sheet of tin foil and double it and place the butter on the bottom, flattening to act as a base for the garlic.  put the entire head of garlic unpeeled onto the butter and sprinkle with sea salt.  fold the foil into a tight bundle and bake for 90 minutes.

while that’s happening, put the clams, garlic, shallots, thyme, bay leaves and wine into a stainless pan that can hold the clams in one layer.  cover and bring to boil over medium heat, moving the clams around to ensure even cooking.  remove the clams as they open which should be within about 5 minutes.  discard any clams that do not open.  allow broth to cool slightly and strain through a chinois.  put the broth into a saucepan.

remove clams from their shells and set aside.

when the roasted garlic is out of the oven and has cooled, remove the garlic from it’s skin and puree. i got great results by using my garlic press.  it shot out the roasted garlic perfectly and i’d just throw out the skin and do it again until all the cloves were gone.  this left me with about 2 T of the most amazing roasted garlic…

with the clam broth on medium heat, whisk the roasted garlic into the broth and then whisk in the butter piece by piece, adding the next piece only when the last piece is incorporated.  season with the white vinegar and add clams back to the clam sauce.  check to see if it needs any salt.  (mine didn’t.)

if your pasta is freshly made, cook it for 2 or 3 minutes in boiling salted water.  drain, reserving a cup of the pasta water (just in case).  put the pasta in a big bowl and toss with the sauce adding the parsley and thyme leaves and black pepper.  toss and serve adding any pasta water if needed.

as carol said to me, "it’s a dish that’s sooo easy and makes me very happy and there is no way you can eat this and not smile with every bite". and that right there dear readers, is what really good food is all about.  

that and the fact that cooking this dish for your significant lover could totally get you laid…


Tags: pasta · seafood

50 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Mal Carne // Apr 27, 2008 at 8:58 am

    Italian staples meet French sensibilities – from crisp, bright broth to beurre blanc.
    I think you’re correct; with the 1/2 cup plus of butter (we’ll not get into the pasta) that is a heart attack in a bowl. But then there’s the garlic to thin the blood. That’s a good thing, right? Well, if the garlic doesn’t have the desired effect, what a way to go.
    I have a feeling that this will be too rich for my taste, but I can’t be sticking to preconceived notions without proper investigation now, can I? Looks like dinner for Tuesday night.

  • 2 Mary Coleman // Apr 27, 2008 at 9:02 am

    I can attest to the fact that this IS the finest white clam sauce/pasta I’ve ever eaten. I have a feeling Cary will say the same!!!
    The pics turned out fabulous, Claudia.
    Totally bookmarked this one!

  • 3 Lesley // Apr 27, 2008 at 9:45 am

    Now I feel even worse for buying that ravioli at Fresh Market last night…

    And Paula Deen represents all that is bad in American food. Her and her Smithfield ham.

  • 4 Lynn // Apr 27, 2008 at 11:22 am

    Fried BUTTER balls? Seriously? This is about as eyerolling as Emeril’s garlic when the crowd goes wild over a clove.

    The recipe looks like heaven on a plate! Is there anything you can’t do?

  • 5 The Urban Eater // Apr 27, 2008 at 11:23 am

    Okay, okay, okay. Southerns do like their butter/ lard/ bacon fat/ fat. I’m not as opposed to Paula as some other FN stars. I’ve actually eaten at The Lady and Son and it was good. Damn good. It was everything my Mother, Great Aunt, and Great Cousin would make on every holiday in my Great Aunt’s old Southern kitchen. People have this grandeur that Southerns know how to make everything taste good, but alas, the reality is that we have some awesome dishes (fried chicken, black eye peas, grits and shrimp, gumbo) and then we have old-school dishes that were handed down between family members that should be buried in the deepest family closet, because they are just not good. Pimento cheese spread anyone?
    On the other hand, the old-school Southerns (such as my Great Aunt and Paula) keep these staples alive because thats what they ate as kids. Why, because everyone was poor but you were still Southern so therefore it had to look the best it could. Even after everyone found money again, those old-school methods stuck around. I can firmly attest, where as some of Paula’s dishes are ghastly, they are as authentic as Peach cobbler.

  • 6 Kim // Apr 27, 2008 at 11:23 am

    First, I so adore clams and am going to make this. Fat or no Fat. Buying double clams to eat the bowl plain while I prepare my meal.
    Second, I so thought the whole flan incident was too much for you, rendering your mind a little off with the Paula thing. Releived beyond words you are not worshipping her.
    Third, you so don’t have a dog or you kicked him outside with the pasta hanging on the drawer pulls.
    Clams are number 1 on my favorite food list….
    Well done!!!!

  • 7 evil chef mom // Apr 27, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    I think that everyone has one recipe from either the French Laundry or from French Laundry at Home that they want to try. I love your pasta racks, you are a cooking MacGyver.

  • 8 Kitt // Apr 27, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    Fabulous! Deadly but fabulous! I am jealous of your pasta roller.

    You can also make a pasta rack by laying an oven rack across the backs of two kitchen chairs and securing it with twist ties. Provided you can keep pets and small children away from it. But I like your solution!

    I tried making gougeres from FLaH after seeing them on Carol’s blog and failed miserably. But I am not deterred! This recipe is also on my “must try someday” list.

  • 9 [eatingclub] vancouver || js // Apr 27, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    Oh my god, you just gave me such a big H.A.P.P.Y.

    I want some, I want some, I want some! The pasta looks awesome, golden like the sun! Argh, it’s not fair that you post this when I have to go to work later.

    In any case, my day is made. Fresh pasta makes me happy, even if only vicariously.

  • 10 mari // Apr 27, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    Claudia, that’s some beautiful looking pasta. That’s all I can say about it really, it just looks like pasta should and I’m sure it tastes like heaven.

  • 11 Laura @ Hungry and Frozen // Apr 27, 2008 at 3:39 pm

    Wow, I am impressed with your making a double batch of the heavily yolked pasta (I accept that some recipes need a lot of egg yolks, but it doesn’t stop the student that I am being nervous of them) I use a simpler recipe (1 egg to 100g flour) so can’t even fathom how good yours must have tasted :)

    I love those kind of white winey-buttery sauces, and this one sounds ridiculously good. Nearly everyone annoys me on the food network (exceptions: Nigella, Jamie, Ina Garten) so I will keep an eye out for this guy!

  • 12 The Italian Dish // Apr 27, 2008 at 3:39 pm

    Glad you are enjoying your pasta rollers! Don’t worry about a pasta rack – just lay your sheets out on lightly floured towels. The dish looks delicious.

  • 13 cookiecrumb // Apr 27, 2008 at 4:43 pm

    I be laffin.
    Beautiful, funny, difficult (say I!).
    Only thing missing is a sprinkle of dried red chile flakes in the sauce. But TK wouldn’t like that.

  • 14 Robert // Apr 27, 2008 at 4:53 pm


    Drying pasta photo brings back boyhood memory….

  • 15 Peter // Apr 27, 2008 at 6:56 pm

    I had no idea there were pasta rollers for Kitchen Aids. I crank. Have for years. Strangely, I also use about 7 fewer egg yolks in my recipe; I’ll have to try it your way next time I’m on death row.

    PS A blowtorch? In the kitchen? You could poke your eye out!

  • 16 Diana // Apr 27, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    If I promise to make this for my husband, he will buy me the pasta maker for my kitchen aid. We shook on it.

    He has fallen in love with spaghetti with clams, having had it at Rumours East, and on his trip to Maryland. I now know I can do better (so say seven egg yolks).

  • 17 The Spotted Apron // Apr 27, 2008 at 7:57 pm

    this looks amazing! clams with pasta is one of my all time fav dishes but i’ve never done it with homemade pasta. i can’t wait to try this!

  • 18 Marc @ NoRecipes // Apr 27, 2008 at 8:20 pm

    The FL cookbook was one of my first cookbooks and yet I’ve never made anything out of it. I guess everything in there is a bit antithetical to my lazy ways;-) This does look delicious though….

  • 19 Cindy // Apr 27, 2008 at 8:34 pm

    Haha I like the way you use handles for pasta rack,
    How creative!

  • 20 annie // Apr 27, 2008 at 8:58 pm

    Wow, that’s a lot of butter put to far better use than PD might make of it. Of course, the crack might actually make you care less about the butter. Seriously, if I ever see clams like that around here, I’m making this dish from pasta to butter. Good pics, too, by the way

  • 21 democommie // Apr 27, 2008 at 9:10 pm


    Three pounds of clams. You are talking shucked, that’s a lot of clams. Was it enough to last both nights. Mmmm. clams in white sauce and linguine or clams in white sauce or linguine in white sauce or white sauce all by it’s lonesome. Embrace the butter? honey , I mainline it.

    Pasta rack? send me a pickchur or drawin’. I’ve made a couple but they were just like big mug racks. I ‘spect you want somethin’ a little more refined–lemme know.

  • 22 Kate // Apr 28, 2008 at 2:18 am

    Great post! All those egg yolks, I might not get laid, I might get my husband suspicious. “Honey, first that new life insurance policy, now all those yolks?”

    I have been wanting one of those pasta attachments for a while, I might finally have to give in.

  • 23 Peter // Apr 28, 2008 at 3:45 am

    I think the roasted garlic and the reduced clam broth are the kickers here. Now a Paula Deen dessert would be this meal’s “cherry on the cake”! lolo

  • 24 Food, Glorious Food » Blog Archive » spaghetti with white clam sauce // Apr 28, 2008 at 4:10 am

    […] this pasta is to die from – i mean, for.  and it is quite simply – 8 ounces (1 3/4 cup) of flour, 1 egg, 6 yolks, 1 T milk, 1.5 t olive oil.  wait… what’s that you say?  7 egg yolks for 8 ounces of flour?  am i kidding, you ask?  well, thomas says so.  and thomas knows.  so stop asking questions and slowly incorporate your flour into the egg mixture, forming the dough into a ball, lightly flour your workspace - and then knead and knead some more – about 20 solid minutes worth…more […]

  • 25 democommie // Apr 28, 2008 at 6:28 am


    My bad for speed reading (and I already took my pain meds!) for not noticing the clams in the shell. I agree with you about PD’s he avy handedness, but she reminds me so much of mysister (who is the best mom and party gal in the world) that I have a hard time disliking her. Do you remember the woman who had the show about cooking “from the Amish country” on PBS, some years back? She was blade thin and started every recipe with a pound of butter.

  • 26 we are never full // Apr 28, 2008 at 7:35 am

    OMG… awesome post. SO much to discuss!

    1. Paula deen is as annoying as ever… my list from worse to ‘less worse’ food networkers: #1: Rachel Ray, #2: it’s a TIE! Paula Deen/Guy Fieri, #3: Sandra Lee, #4: Ina Garten, #5: Tyler Florence… I could go on, but I’ll spare you.

    2. Those golden egg noodles looks awesome. I got the KA pasta rollers for our wedding gift and I use them about 4 times a month. SO useful and easy to use!!

    3. This version of the dish is much more involved and richer than the one I grew up on. My mother wasn’t much of a gourmond, but her spag/white clams was delish. I don’t think she did much more than plop some clam sauce w/ some white wine, parsley and a touch of salt , but somehow I loved it.

    4. SEAFOOD ROAD SHOW!? I think i just threw up in my mouth a little bit. but i’m sure you can get a good steal there.

  • 27 giz // Apr 28, 2008 at 7:56 am

    Great post!! You did such a good job. But, Claudia, you need to tell us how you REALLY feel about Paula…LOL

  • 28 jim voorhies // Apr 28, 2008 at 8:41 am

    I’ve cnsidered making my pasta with just the yolks before (and hoarding the whites for pie meringue) but that’s also how I keep my cholesterol low.

    Good for you for getting a pasta maker. It is soooooo much better fresh. You might also be able to use the dough hook for your kitchenaid mixer but that wouldn’t burn as many calories off. :)

  • 29 amy @ minimally invasive // Apr 28, 2008 at 8:51 am

    I definitely need to get those KA pasta rollers, if for no other reason than to try this recipe. I broke out the old-fashioned hand-crank pasta machine this weekend and it was fine, but my little-girl arms are no match for it.

  • 30 The Urban Eater // Apr 28, 2008 at 10:03 am

    I voting Emeril as #1 annoying. Then it’s gotta be that Robin Miller chick. GAG! Looking at her annoys me.

  • 31 John H // Apr 28, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    Wow you bike you cook and your voting for obama thats predictable enough but why would you hate paula dean

  • 32 claudia // Apr 28, 2008 at 1:42 pm

    dear john h, (who left a bogus email address) 1. her incredibly annoying persona and 2. the vast majority of her food.

    i don’t hate paula – i dislike what she puts out there on every level. not my style.

    got it? good.

  • 33 Donald // Apr 28, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    That’s a lotta yolks!!!!!

    I make this dish several times a year. The last time I made it, I used 100 clams, one of those netted things full. It was excellent and then I got a big toe gout attack! I love shellfish, but the purines don’t love me too much.

    Aren’t the KAPAs great?

  • 34 Kevin // Apr 28, 2008 at 5:46 pm

    That pasta looks so good! Great job making your own pasta. I have been wanting to try making my own egg based pasta for a while now.

  • 35 melissa // Apr 28, 2008 at 7:06 pm

    white clam sauce is a heavenly creation. ah claudia, you’re inspiring me again. this time to make my own pasta. you make it sound not so scary. you also make keller sound not so scary. at least just this once. 😉

    and paula? hahahaha. oh man. I was introduced to many food network chefs much later than most people. but the first time I saw her I said something very specific about her… well, you’ve inspired me to post about that too. I’ve always wanted to and now I will when I put up a new one tonight.

  • 36 Nina // Apr 28, 2008 at 10:33 pm

    I had to laugh at the pasta hanging over the drawer handles. I have to han mine over a broomstick….Lovely meal, though.

  • 37 Vincent // Apr 28, 2008 at 11:09 pm

    It looks so good. I want you to buy the hand crank and do it that way though – for some reason it tastes better. I’m sure all the boys that comment would love to see a pasta session a’la “Let’s Get Physical” happen.


    Somewhere my Grandmother is reading this and saying that hand rolled is the only way to do it.

  • 38 Quickthink » Blog Archive » QuickNews - April 29, 2008 // Apr 29, 2008 at 12:33 am

    […]  Spaghetti with White Clam Sauce? – Hands down, Cook Eat Fret is the most fun food blog around.  Today CEF does spaghetti and links to a handful of other great bloggers! […]

  • 39 Traci @ Soup of The Day // Apr 29, 2008 at 1:16 am

    This looks absolutely to die for. Damnit Claudia… you HAD to remind me that pasta can be made fresh. I had completely blocked that out.

    Paula Deen…. I could have SWORE that she was a total drunk. Half the time you see her she seems completely smashed. But then I heard her say once that she didn’t drink, and I was like… “SERIOUSLY??!!” I’m still in shock. Not sure I believe it, but whatever.

  • 40 Traci @ Soup of The Day // Apr 29, 2008 at 1:18 am

    OH – I forgot. You TOTALLY do 10’s babe…. remember the mole? Shit, if that isn’t a 10 I don’t know what is. Wink.

  • 41 Nicole // Apr 29, 2008 at 6:51 am

    OMG! We could totally be friends. I love Obama – I lived in Hyde Park for a year and worked there for over two years so I was lucky enough to have run ins with him. Plus, I so don’t like Paula, but do LOVE thomas keller. My tom and i were going to go there for our anniversary in June, but with the move is a no go. Now that I am hungry reading your post I must go eat breakfast. Thanks for sharing.

  • 42 TaratheFoodie // Apr 29, 2008 at 7:50 am

    I have the Kitchen Aid pasta machine attachment, too, and it IS so awesome! It’s as easy as pie to use and fun as hell. I also have the meat grinder attachment (a must have), the citrus juicer (also very helpful if you’re trying to juice many, many limes to many, many margaritas), and the sausage stuffer (which I haven’t used yet, but will someday I’m sure.

    I also agree that making your own pasta is very enjoyable. I’ll be making some of my own as soon as finals are over so I can take my time. Your spaghetti with clam sauce looks SO good, by the way, and I will definitely be making this because I LOVE clam sauce AND I too bought some clams at Costco.

    However, I have to admit that I love Paula Deen. No, NOT for her food… it’s just too damn fatty and outrageous and well… country. I’m not country. But I love HER. She’s just such a happy person and sometimes that’s nice to see. It’s the same reason that I love Racheal Ray. They seem like cool people and I’d hang with them any day. (ok, now stop gagging… deep breaths…) haha…

  • 43 Dana // Apr 29, 2008 at 8:47 am

    Holy moly! This looks AMAZING!!! My doctor recently told me to up my iron intake and mentioned clams as a good high iron food. Never has a doctor’s prescription sounded so delicious!

  • 44 Julie // Apr 29, 2008 at 11:45 am

    Yes, yes, and yes! The KA pasta roller is awesome and it makes it so easy to make homemade pasta which is so totally delicious. And the clam sauce looks completely amazing. That roasted garlic step? Oh dear heavens!

    Thomas Keller is a genius. I just hope he doesn’t turn out to be a republican.

  • 45 Brittany // Apr 29, 2008 at 9:08 pm

    Have you noticed how if a chef is worth shit, he/she is most likely NOT on the food network?
    ….seems to be a trend.
    TK is totally voting for Obama. I just know it.
    By the way- we use a wooden laundry drying rack to dry pasta. Cheap and collapsable……just a thought.

  • 46 Brittany // Apr 29, 2008 at 9:11 pm

    Re-wording is necessary:
    I am cringing to notice that I just referred to Food network’s asswipe talent as “chefs”

  • 47 joycooks // Apr 30, 2008 at 10:10 am

    This was the best ‘spaghetti alle vongole’ I’ve ever had and I have had many! Thanks, Claudia for the food and the experience of watching you make that gorgeous pasta! And i even had a hand in taking some of the photos… to think I contributed in some small way to this wonderful post. And, you’ve inspired me to someday soon buy the attachments and put my roller pasta machine away in the closet. It never stays put and you made it look so easy. I am sold. xoxo

  • 48 Stephanie // Apr 30, 2008 at 7:27 pm

    Damnit Claudia! Now I have to go out and buy the pasta maker attachment for Big Red (that’s what I call my Kitchen Aid stand mixer)…My tiny basement apartment kitchen can barely hold all the cooking shit I have now!

  • 49 RecipeGirl // Apr 30, 2008 at 9:21 pm

    I love how you “dared to adapt!” And you even used real clams. I probably would have pulled out the can opener.

    I’m happy to hear that your lovin’ your KA pasta attachment. I have it, and I haven’t tested it out yet!!

  • 50 Hillary // May 1, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    That homemade pasta looks absolutely fabulous and I just LOVE your makeshift pasta rack! :)

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