Life’s a Feast: Spaghetti alle vongole


Chilli-spiked spaghetti combined with a medley of juicy, plump clams. To me, this is the essence of a lazy summer evening and an Italian classic. Over summer, we have the luxury of being able to dig for fresh clams at my husband’s family bach in the Marlborough Sounds. However you can also buy them at your local market such as Harbour Fresh and often New World. Don’t mask their delicate flavour with an onslaught of complex ingredients. This simple zesty partnership of lemon, chilli, garlic and clams is the perfect subtle combination. A very Happy New Year to you all, I hope you have had a safe and wonderful festive season. Enjoy!



1.5kg clams or cockles
6 cloves garlic
2 red chillis, thinly sliced
(remove seeds for less heat)
2 good handfuls Italian flat leaf parsley,
chopped roughly
Juice of 2 lemons
Extra virgin olive oil
1 pack of spaghetti or linguine


1. Clean your clams. Sort through them and take out any that are not closed. If slightly open, give it a tap and if it doesn’t close, discard and do not use.

2. Bring a large pot of water to the boil and add a good pinch of salt. Cook the spaghetti according to the instructions until it’s al dente.

3. Whilst your pasta is cooking, peel and dice your garlic then add 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil to a large pan and heat to a high heat. Add in the garlic and chilli, and just as your garlic starts to colour, throw in your clams. Pop the lid on. Give everything a good shake from time to time. After 3-4 minutes, the clams should start to open and release beautiful juices so keep shaking pan until all have opened. Take off heat and discard any that haven’t opened.

4. Drain the pasta and tip into the pan with the clams and juice. Combine thoroughly and let the pasta absorb some of the delicious juices. Pour over lemon juice, sprinkle with parsley, combine and serve immediately on a large platter.

5. Two things to note. If you do not have a large enough pan to fit the clams, do in two batches and divide the garlic and chilli. Secondly, if you want to make this a tomato-based vongole dish, add in two packs of halved cherry tomatoes and 100ml white wine when you cook the garlic and chilli.