Spaghetti with Pancetta and Vongole

This month we welcome back our beloved friend and contributor, Julia Busuttil-Nishimura (aka Julia Ostro) for a series of recipes shared with us from her glorious new cookbook, ‘Ostro‘.

While they may be simple, these pasta dishes are anything but basic.

Julia’s spaghetti with salty pancetta and fresh vongole is an impressive yet deceptively simple dish. We recommend making this one in a big batch for a dinner party with friends or family, and letting the good vibes (and accolades) flow!

Julia Busuttil-Nishimura

Spaghetti with Pancetta and Vongole from Julia Busuttil-Nishimura,  author of ‘Ostro’,  Styling – Lucy Feagins and Nat Turnbull, Photo – Eve Wilson.

Fresh clams ready to be added to the pasta. Styling – Lucy Feagins and Nat Turnbull, Photo – Eve Wilson.

Spaghetti with Pancetta and Vongole, the perfect light, spring meal. Styling – Lucy Feagins and Nat Turnbull, Photo – Eve Wilson.

Julia Busuttil-Nishimura
10th of October 2017

In my book, ‘Ostro‘, you will find recipes that I hope will bring you great joy to prepare and eat. There are many recipes which you can settle in to, really get to know, and cook leisurely on the weekend or a day off. But also, recipes for simple, reliable meals during the week. Regardless, they all highlight the gratification of using simple ingredients to create delicious food.

This week I’m excited to share with you my recipe for Spaghetti with Pancetta and Vongole.

Vongole, or clams, are such good eating, especially when paired with some pancetta and spaghetti, and cooked just right. They taste of the sea and take me back to my childhood, when we would collect pipis from a nearby beach. This dish is more about timing than anything – the pasta should be almost cooked when the vongole go in, ensuring that they both finish cooking at the same time. I sometimes add a pinch of crushed dried chilli towards the end, too, which can give the whole dish a nice kick.

Remember to undercook the pasta a little before draining, as it will continue to cook in the sauce for a minute or two as you ladle the pasta water into the sauce.



700g vongole (clams), scrubbed
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
70g flat pancetta, cut into lardons
500g tomatoes, roughly chopped
100ml dry white wine
400g dried spaghetti
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Juice of 1⁄2 lemon
Sea salt
Handful of flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped


Place the vongole in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Leave to soak for 30 minutes, then rinse well and drain. This helps to remove any sand.

Gently heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over a low heat.

Add the pancetta and cook for about 3 minutes until golden.

Add the tomatoes, increase the heat to medium and let them happily simmer away for 2–3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour in the wine, cover and simmer for 5–8 minutes until the tomatoes have collapsed and the sauce is thick.

Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of generously salted water to the boil and cook the spaghetti according to the packet instructions, until a minute or two under al dente.

A few minutes before the pasta is ready, add the vongole and garlic to the sauce and cover with the lid to steam the clams open, which should only take a few minutes. Discard any clams that haven’t opened. Drain the spaghetti, reserving the pasta water, and add to the sauce.

Add the lemon juice and 60 – 125 ml (1⁄4–1⁄2 cup) of pasta water as needed, and stir to coat. Let it all come together on the heat for a minute or two, adding more pasta water if the sauce seems dry. The sauce should be thick and luxurious but not watery. Season to taste, remembering that the vongole and pancetta will bring saltiness. Stir the parsley through and serve.


‘Ostro‘ by Julia Busuttil-Nishimura is published in paper-back (AUD$44.99) or e-book ($17.99) by Pan Macmillan’s lifestyle imprint, Plum. It is also available at all good bookstores, and for orders outside Australia Readings ship internationally.

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