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Zucchini with Garlic-Butter Clam Sauce

Pasta Alternative
Makes 4 servings20 minutes hands on time20 minutes total time

Makes: 3-4 servings

Total Carbohydrates: 8-11 grams per serving

Hands-on Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

If you have access to fresh clams, well, then you probably know what to do with them. But this recipe, using already-prepped, easily obtained, amazingly economical supermarket canned clams (look for them near the canned tuna) is shockingly delicious. Especially considering that you’re using zucchini noodles rather than linguine noodles! (If lowering carbs is not your particular aim, you can use ¾ pound cooked linguine instead of the zucchini noodles.) I have to give you a range of serving sizes here, though, because I wanted the recipe to serve four – but it’s actually kind of too good to. If you do eke out four servings, just be sure to serve a ginormous salad alongside so that you have somewhere to direct people who are sad to find their plates empty. 

If you’re looking to:

Lower the fat: Use only 2 tablespoons each of olive oil and butter.


3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons butter

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 shallot, finely chopped (or 1/3 cup finely chopped onion)

2 (6.5-ounce) cans chopped clams, drained, juice reserved (you should have about 1 cup of juice)

1/3 cup dry white wine (or chicken broth)

A pinch of red pepper flakes, if you like

1/3 cup finely chopped parsley

Finely grated zest of ½ lemon

Salt to taste

3 medium zucchinis, around 1 ½ pounds, spiralized (or 20 – 24 ounces prepared zoodles)

Grated parmesan, for serving


  1. Heat the olive oil and butter in a Dutch oven or a large, heavy pot over medium heat, then sauté the garlic and shallot until softened and very fragrant – 3 or 4 minutes. 
  2. Add the clam juice, wine, and red pepper. Raise the heat, and bring it to a vigorous simmer, then lower the heat and simmer until the liquid is very thick and syrupy, around 8-10 minutes. (You want to mostly evaporate the liquid at this point, since the zucchini will give up a lot of its own liquid when you add it.)
  3. Add the clams and the zucchini and simmer together over high heat, tossing with tongs occasionally, until the zucchini is tender and most of the extra liquid has evaporated, around 5 minutes. 
  4. Stir in the parsley and lemon zest. Taste for salt and add some if it needs it. Serve with grated parmesan. 

About Catherine

Catherine loves to write about food and feeding people. In addition to her recipe and parenting blog Ben & Birdy (which has about 15,000 weekly readers), she edits the ChopChop series of mission-driven cooking magazines. This kids’ cooking magazine won the James Beard Publication of the Year award in 2013 – the first non-profit ever to win it – and a Parents’ Choice Gold Award. Her book "How to Be A Person" was published in 2020. She also helped develop Sprout, a WIC version of the magazine for families enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), as well as Seasoned, their senior version. They distribute over a million magazines annually, through paid subscriptions, doctor’s offices, schools, and hospitals. Their mission started with obesity as its explicit focus – and has shifted, over the years, to a more holistic one, with health, happiness, and real food at its core. That’s the same vibe Catherine brings to the diaTribe column.

[Photo Credit: Catherine Newman]