Spaghettini with Fish Sauce: Clams, Scallop, and Squid


(photo: Fish Sauce dish with squid, scallops, and clams awaiting pasta)

Mention pasta to me and my mind drifts to fresh parsley, sliced garlic, dried red chillies, and high quality extra virgin olive oil.  In my view, the four aforementioned ingredients make up the world’s best pasta sauce or condiment.  Sure, one can argue that a well executed tomato sauce (with or without braised meats) or even a sauce comprised of wild mushrooms would present great competition for parsley, garlic, hot pepper flakes, and olive oil but I’m not entirely convinced.

In the event that a worthy enough competitor arose to challenge the simple sauce above it would most likely be some variation of a fish sauce.  And any fish sauce, in my view, is an extension of parsley, garlic, red hot pepper flakes, and extra virgin olive oil; kind of like an older brother who has seen the world.  

Our fish sauce starts with whatever, firm flesh and high quality, fish are available at the market.  In our case, we purchased large diver scallops, whole squid, and clams (I was also looking for muscles but I didn’t like the quality of what was available).  
(photo: parsley, red onion, whole squid, and garlic)  

(photo: squid ready to be cleaned and cut)


(photo: large diver scallops and parsley)


  • 5-6 large cloves of garlic 
  • 1 bunch of parsley 
  • 1-2 whole dried red chilli peppers with seeds 
  • 1/2 medium red onion
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper  
  • 2-3 coups of dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil (the best you can buy)
  • 15-20 clams (or one can of clams with broth; yes good quality canned whole or chopped clams are acceptable)
  • 1/2 pound of large diver scallops (cut each scallop into four bit size pieces)
  • 1/2 to 3/4 of a pound of squid (uncleaned, click here for a great video on how to clean and cut squid)
  • 1/2 pound of spaghettini 

(photo: I couldn’t find high quality fresh clams at the market, so I used canned clams in clam broth and the quality was very good)

Add most of the 1/2 cup of olive oil to a large pan along with the sliced garlic and finely chopped red onion.  Add salt and pepper and slowly cook over a medium flame.  Next, crush the dry chilli peppers in your hand and add to the pan (note: wash your hands thereafter).  Add all of your fish and give the mixture a quick stir, adding a bit more salt and pepper to taste.  Next, add your white wine and clam juice and cook for about 10 minutes.  Bring your all dente spaghettini to the sauce pan and mix well.  Add the freshly chopped parsley and mix a final time before serving.  After platting the pasta, drizzle a bit of olive oil over the pasta.  The pasta experts you should never use grated cheese on a fished based sauce and the logic behind the rule is a good one (viz., don’t do away with all of that good fish flavor with cheese), however I have to admit I’ve occasionally added grated cheese!  Enjoy the pasta dish with a crisp white wine.   

(photo: completed dish up close)

(photo: ready to be consumed; I have to admit the portions are much larger than normal!)


  1. A Food Guide to an Italian Christmas

    (photo: various Christmas food plates: left to right string beans, baked broccoli, baccala in tomato sauce, mussels in red wine tomato sauce, zeppole, fried calamari, stuffed squid, baked flounder, salad, etc.)At this point in the holiday frenzy, you’…

  2. Nicholas D Canepa

    I am going to be making this dish ASAP. I love Calamari, Octopus, Clams, Mussels and any fish. This makes me sooo hungry right now. Your recipes are all excellent. Keeps showing them to us. They remind me of my Nonna Francesca from Sicily. She was the best cook and she taught my Mom how to cook all her wonderful meals.

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