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Oct 16, 2018
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WINE WITH…Linguine with Clams and Fresh Tomato Sauce

Most people seem to prefer white wine as a partner for traditional linguine with clams, but we wondered if adding fresh tomatoes to the traditional olive oil and herb-based sauce might make the dish more appealing with red wine as well as white.  In order not to skew it more towards red wine we kept the basic sauce light and bright (a light hand with herbs, and no marinara sauce).  Making the tomato sauce several hours and up to a day in advance means that the final dish can be assembled in about 30 minutes max.

Linguine with Clams and Fresh Tomato Sauce

Serves 4

1 tablespoon olive oil
2/3 cup minced onion
3-4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
About 2 cups peeled and seeded tomatoes, chopped (or use canned)
1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more, to taste)
salt and pepper
1 pound linguine (or spaghetti)
2-3 pounds littleneck clams
1/2 cup white wine
3/4 cup minced parsley

Place the olive oil in a large sauté pan and add the onion.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is soft and translucent, then stir in the garlic.  Continue cooking another couple of minutes until the garlic is soft but not browned.  Add the tomatoes and red pepper flakes and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are soft and “saucy”  (about 15-20 minutes).  Taste for seasoning, then set aside until ready to cook the clams and pasta.

About 30 minutes before serving, bring a large pot of water to a boil then add the pasta and simmer it until it is very al dente (about 5 minutes less than package directions).  Meanwhile, scrub the clams and place them in a large pot along with the wine.  Cover the pot and cook the clams, shaking the pot from time to time, until the clams have opened (about 6-10 minutes).   Drain the pasta, then return it to the pot and stir in the tomato sauce.  Simmer for a few minutes, then add the clams, reserving about ½ cup of the clam-cooking liquid (avoid liquid from the bottom of the pan, where grit may have settled).  Stir in the parsley and continue stirring the mixture over low heat for a couple of minutes.  Divide into 4 bowls and serve at once.

*          *          *

The different elements in this extremely versatile dish will complement many different types of wine.  In our tasting, the fresh tomatoes married harmoniously with wines with noticeable acidity (the Rosé and the red Toscana, for example), while the pasta and clams echoed lusher choices (the Chardonnay and white Rhône).  The Pinot Noir we are recommending occupied a sort of middle ground--rich but firm, with earthy undertones that proved very appealing with both the briny clams and the ripe tomatoes. 

More recipes and wine pairings:    Wine With...  
Connect  on Twitter:   @M_L_Thomas  and  @Wine_With_



Approx. Price




Benton Lane,

Willamette Valley


Pinot Noir

“Estate Grown”








An attractive Pinot because, while ripe, legitimately dry and focused.  Its earthy secondary flavors prove particularly enticing.


Paul Jaboulet Aîné,

Rhône Valley


Côtes du Rhône Blanc

“Parallèle 45”


(Imported by Skurnik)



A surprise, this wine, often ignored in favor of its red sibling, is lush on the palate, with stone fruit flavors, a whisper of minerality, and excellent length. 



San Felice,





(Imported by San Felice USA)







Made primarily with Merlot from the Maremma district, this light-bodied red shows plenty of ripe, cherry-scented fruit, but augments that primary note with a tart one that both provides balance and checks excess.  The result is a very food-friendly, everyday-priced wine.





Sonoma County













Very much on the buttery, tropical fruit ide of Chardonnay’s stylistic spectrum, this is a warm, full-flavored wine, full of exuberance and flash.  There is nothing nuanced here, just plenty of fleshy sex appeal.






Wither Hills,

Wairau Valley

(New Zealand)

Rosé of Pinot Noir


(Imported by The Country Vintner)










Crisp and refreshing, this very well-balanced rosé tastes of red berries with a hint of mint or other herbs.  It is finely focused with nothing remotely sweet or flabby, so definitely a good meal companion.