Creamy Lemon-Dill Linguini with Clams

linguini with zucchini and clams

Spaghetti with clams was a regular part of my mom’s week night meal rotation.  Canned clams and dry pasta were always in the pantry and the sauce was simply milk thickened with flour and margarin.  The dish was a simple and inexpensive way to get dinner on the table.  Mom’s sauce was always a bit runny for my taste and I am not a huge fan of spaghetti noodles.  I didn’t hate it but I didn’t love it either.

Whole Wheat Linguini

In college I kept a box of Pasta-Roni on hand.  The boxed mix was a simple side dish for baked chicken. Sometimes I changed it up a little and rather than preparing it according to the instructions on the box I would replace part of the liquid with the juice from a can of clams and then toss in the clams and a heap of frozen mixed vegetables.  I could scoop half of the finished pasta into a bowl and the other into a container for the next day.  Cooking for 15 minutes to create two meals from one pot makes me happy.

Twirled Linguini with zucchini pieces

Actually, if that last bit speaks to you and you want to quit reading and just go whip up a box of Pasta-Roni you have my blessing.  I get it.  Many people are looking for ideas that get from “what’s for dinner” to “dinner’s ready” as quickly as possible.  Many nights I am right there too.  However, if you feel like pulling out a few more pans or perhaps have more than two mouths to feed, keep reading.

I made this dish on a night when I had to dig through the cupboards for dinner. The entire meal came together in about 30 minutes.  Like mom, I generally keep most of the ingredients for this dish on hand.  All except the dill.

lemons and dill

I keep meaning to plant dill but haven’t gotten around to it yet.  I think dill is one of the most underrated herbs.  Its light and feathery fronds are so graceful and wispy.  I love to burry my nose in a buch of the herb and just breath the smell of spring and cut grass.  Dill pairs with lemon so seamlessly, the flavors of each elevating the other.  Words like bright, crisp, spring, and refreshing all come to mind when I think about these two flavors.

The lightness of dill and lemon balance the indulgently creamy sauce, slightly briny clams, and fuller flavored whole wheat linguini. This dish is light and fresh enough to be served on a a health spa’s beachside patio.  It is also warm and hearty enough to land fully into the comfort food category.

linguini with clams

Creamy Lemon-Dill Linguini with Clams

This creamy sauce begins with a simple roux.  A combination of clam juice and low fat milk give the sauce a rich texture while minimizing the amount of calories and fat when compared to a traditional creamy pasta sauce.  The finished sauce will serve about 6 portions and keeps well in the refrigerator for several days.  For best results with this dish prepare all the ingredients before starting to cook anything, then


  • 1 TB smart balance
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 1/4 cups clam juice
  • 1 1/4 cups light soy or low fat milk (1% or 2%)
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp nutmeg
  • salt and pepper


  1. To make the roux – combine oil and butter or butter alternative (Smart Balance) in a medium sauce pan and melt over medium heat.  When the butter has fully melted and the liquid is just beginning to bubble remove the pan from the heat.  Whisk in the flour stirring briskly to fully incorporate the flour. Return the pan to the heat and continue to stir while the mixture toasts slightly.  Let the flour mixture cook for 2 – 3 minutes stirring the entire time.  The flour should darken a little.
  2. While continuing to whisk, slowly add the milk and clam juice to the toasted flour.  Stir continuously eliminating any lumps.  Add nutmeg, salt, and pepper a little at a time to your taste preference.
  3. Let the sauce continue cooking over medium heat.  Stir frequently, the sauce will thicken as it heats.
  4. When the sauce is creamy but not gloppy reduce the heat to low until ready to add to the pasta.  If sauce seems too thick add milk a little at a time until thinned to desired consistency.


  • non-stick pan spray (or 2 tsp of cooking oil)
  • 3 – 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 – 2 medium zucchini chopped into bite sized pieces (3-4 cups)
  • 2 drained cans of chopped clams (the juice goes in the sauce above)
  • 1/3 cup of loosely packed, chopped dill
  • juice of 1/2 a large lemon (approximately 1/4 – 1/3 cup)
  • whole wheat linguini – about 2 oz of dry pasta per person


  1. In a large pot begin heating the water to cook the linguini
  2. Spray non-stick spray or drizzle oil into a large sautee pan and warm over medium high heat.
  3. Slice garlic cloves into thin rounds and toast in preheated pan.  Allow to toast to a golden color about 2 minutes being careful not to burn the garlic.  Once the garlic has toasted add the zucchini pieces to the sautee pan. Stir occasionally.
  4. When the water for the pasta reaches a rolling boil add the desired amount of linguini (approx. 2 oz. per person) and cook as instructed on the package.
  5. Make the sauce while the zucchini browns and the pasta cooks.
  6. Wait to add the clams until the sauce has thickened and the pasta has a minute or two left.  Stir into zucchini and allow to heat through.
  7. Add the linguini to the sautee pan mixing lightly with a pair of tongs.  Stir in lemon juice and dill.  Spoon creamy sauce over the pasta using about 1/2 a cup of sauce for every person you will be serving.  Withhold any additional sauce to store separately.

Serve immediately.

Approximate Nutrition Information for a 1/2 cup portion of sauce with clams, (using light soy milk, no cooking oil) 2 ounces of Ronzoni whole wheat linguini, and zucchini: 312 calories, 9 g. fat, 53 g. carbs, 7.5 g fiber, 14 g. protein, PP = 9

Whole Wheat Pasta with cream sauce

Fun Variation:

whole wheat pasta with pink sauce

Whole Wheat Linguini with Pink Sauce!

Mix 1 cup of the creamy sauce above with 1 cup jarred tomato based pasta sauce. Throw a cup or two of frozen veggies in with the pasta water and toss in some cooked cocktail shrimp and dill before serving.


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