Linguini with cockles or clams in a lemon butter sauce

Cockles with samphire.

Cockles or Clams? ‘One can definitely say that cockles are clams, but one cannot say that clams are cockles’.


Cockles or Clams?‘One can definitely say that cockles are clams, but one cannot say that clams are cockles’.

Clam is a broad, general term for small edible bivalves.   But whilst cockles are clams they are a distinct species in the family Cardiidae.  Cockles have rounded shells with radiating ribs. They are found in sandy sheltered beaches throughout the world, living and feeding in shallow waters and burying themselves in the sand while the tide is out. The traditional harvesting technique involves raking  through the sand to dig them up.

Cockles or clams for this dish?  – Its makes very little difference. Just ensure that if you use clams that attach themselves to rocks and ropes (like mussels), as opposed to individually burying themselves in sand as cockles do,  that you remove the beard as you would for mussels during their initial preparation. The smaller the shell the quicker the cooking.


Linguine with cockles in a lemon butter sauce

Cockles with ingredients for the lemon butter sauce.

Cockles with ingredients for the lemon butter sauce.

Serves 4-6


500g fresh clams

500g Linguini

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

½ red Thai chilli, very finely diced

Zest of one lemon

12.5g fresh parsley, finely chopped

150ml white wine

100g unsalted butter

Freshly ground black pepper

Grated parmesan cheese

Tasty extra virgin olive oil


Soak the clams in fresh water for a few hours before cooking to remove any grit and debris. As will all shellfish remove and discard any that remain open after tapping at this stage. Drain the clean clams in a colander just prior to cooking.

Put a large pan of salted water on to boil for cooking the pasta.

Put one table spoon of olive oil into a high sided frying or sauté pan which has a well-fitting lid, and gently heat. Add the garlic and the chilli and cook for about 30 seconds until fragrant. Pour in the wine, increase the heat and boil for 3-4 minutes or until the wine is reduced by a third or so.  While you are waiting for the wine to reduce plunge the linguini into the boiling water and cook as instructed on the packet (between 10 and 15 minutes).

When the wine has reduced tip the prepared clams into the pan and cover with the pan lid.  Bring the liquid back to the boil and then reduce the heat to a gentle bubble so that the clams will steam. Cook them for about 4 minutes, shaking the pan from time to time for even heat distribution.     The clams are cooked when they have opened (discard any that wont open at this stage). Be careful not to overcook or cook them too fiercely or they will fall from their shells and lose their plumpness. With a slotted spoon gently remove the clams from the pan to a bowl.

To finish the sauce boil the wine and clam liquor over a high heat and reduce the liquor again by half.

When the liquor is reduced by half lower the heat to a simmer and whisk in the butter in three stages. Stir in the lemon zest and half of the chopped parsley. Season with freshly ground black pepper.  Gently return the cooked clams to the pan coating in the sauce as you reheat them.

Cooked clams reheating in the lemon butter sauce

Cooked clams reheating in the lemon butter sauce


Drain the pasta and put it into a large serving dish. Add the clams and the buttery sauce and gently mix together.  Sprinkle over the remaining parsley and a few twists of freshly ground black pepper and serve with additional olive oil and parmesan cheese. I cooked the samphire, pictured, in fresh water and served it as an accompaniment that could be dipped in to the butter sauce.

Linguini with cockles in a lemon butter sauce

Linguini with cockles in a lemon butter sauce

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s