Spaghettini with Clams, Bacon & Ramps: For My “Italian” Father

Spaghettini with Clams, Bacon & Ramps


That’s how my father would end almost every talking-to when I was a kid. Capiche – the Italian saying for “Do you understand?” It was his way of adding a little levity to our talk, while channeling his version of The Godfather.

See, my father was more than intrigued with all things Italian. He’d tell me stories of his visits to Rome, including the time he honeymooned there with my mother. He’d eagerly watch Italian movies with famous actors like Marcello Mastroianni and every Italian-American movie with Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. He’d play cassettes of Italian, not Indian, music in his car as he drove us to school. And most of all, he loved Italian food: salami, mozzarella, calamari, pizza, and spaghetti bolognese.

So, it’s not surprising that I too am obsessed with Italian food, especially a dish called spaghettini alle vongole.

Spaghetti alla Vongole

Spaghettini alle vongole is thin spaghetti tossed with fresh clams in a light sauce of olive oil, garlic, lemon or wine, parsley and red pepper flakes. It is a simple dish from Naples that allows each of its ingredients to be savored equally and is perfect for the summer months. I could eat it every day and that’s exactly what I did the week I spent in Rome with a friend a few years ago.

To her amusement, I sought it out at every restaurant we visited. As I meticulously twirled my fork to create delectable morsels of silky smooth noodles, fresh clams and just the right amount of the subtle sauce, I knew this was a dish I would learn to cook back at home. Now, it has become synonymous with dining al fresco (Italian: outdoors) in lovely warm weather with friends, while sipping a glass of crisp wine.

Bacon Bits

Since summer is right around the corner and my farmer’s market had an abundance of fresh clams and ramps, I decided to recreate this favorite using both. I replaced the garlic in the recipe with the ramp bulbs since ramps are also known as wild garlic. Bellissimo! And to take it up a notch, I used another one of my father’s favorite ingredients – bacon. I cooked the dish in bacon fat and garnished it with… yes, more crispy bacon.

Hey, this may not be super healthy but I promise you it’ll be seriously decadent.

~ Anjali

A printable list of ingredients & directions are at the end of this post,
along with an image of this Perfect Morsel.

Fresh Clams

Rinse the clams in cold running water. Place them in a large bowl and cover with a damp paper towel.


Bring 6 quarts of salted water to boil in a large pot. Add spaghettini and cook for a couple of minutes under the recommended time. This is to ensure that the pasta does not over cook later in the process. About 8 minutes.

Pasta Water

Reserve a cup of the pasta water in a small bowl before you drain the pasta in a colander.

Fried Bacon

Meanwhile, cook the bacon in an un-oiled large saute pan over medium heat until crispy. About 8 minutes. Make sure to flip the bacon half way through to ensure even cooking.

Crispy Bacon

Turn the stove off and transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels to drain any excess fat. When cool, break the bacon into bite-sized pieces and place in a small bowl.

Ramp Bulbs

Rinse the ramps. Using a sharp knife, trim the ends of the white bulbs.

Chopped Ramps

Finely chop the bulbs and roughly chop the dark green ends. Keep the green ends aside.

Sauteed Ramps

Add the chopped bulbs, 2 tbsp olive oil, a pinch of salt, and ½ tsp black pepper to the bacon fat in the saute pan. Saute on medium high heat, stirring until the bulbs are soft and translucent. About 4 minutes.

Lemon with Sauteed Ramps

Add the juice of 1 lemon to the pan. The acid in the lemon juice dissolves the browned layer of leftover crispy bacon parts that were stuck to the pan to make the sauce. This technique is called “deglazing”.

Clams Opening

Add the clams, ½ tsp chilli flakes and the cup of pasta water. Stir over medium heat, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes. Discard any clams that do not open.

Butter Clam Sauce

Whisk 1 tbsp butter into the pan to slightly thicken the sauce.

Sauteed Ramps with Clams

Add the chopped green parts of the ramps and stir for about 3 minutes until the ramps begin to wilt.

Parsley with Clams

Toss in the cooked pasta, ⅓ cup parsley and 2 tbsp olive oil, and mix thoroughly. Check seasoning and add salt as necessary.

Clam Pasta

Serve the pasta in individual bowls. Garnish the pasta with crispy bacon and serve with slices of lemon.

Empty Clam Shells

Keep a bowl nearby for the clam shells. You know it has been a good meal when the bowl fills up with empty shells.

Perfect Morsel: Spaghettini with Clams, Bacon & Ramps

Here’s a forkful of a Perfect Morsel of spaghettini, fresh clam, ramp, and a crunchy bite-sized piece of bacon.


  1. Neena says

    A delightful and appetising dish and fond reminiscences a la Italiano !
    Even now its dad’s favourite dish and you could not have made him happier.I’m not planning to venture experimenting but maybe will treat him to it !
    Lots of love and hugs and wish you good luck and success always.
    A sprinkling of love and a spice of remembrance is what makes your recipes memorable !

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