Food for Thought with Suzanne Dunaway

Coque-y cooking

This pasta with coques can fast become an addiction as it has in our house and with guests.

The lovely small cockles in French fish markets everywhere are sweet and perfect over pasta (in addition to being delicious steamed and eaten alone), steamed with a bit of hot pepper, garlic and garnished with fresh parsley.

The coques’ own juices emerge as they steam, which is why I do not ever add any liquid, wine or otherwise, to this delectable sauce.

It is the easiest summer pasta sauce of all, with only four basic ingredients: olive oil, garlic, a hot pepper, and the little coques left to create their own sweet broth. Long a favorite with my French friends, it is best to make plenty for a dinner party.

Believe it or not, this can taste even better a second time if you have leftovers, as the lovely broth soaks into the pasta overnight.  Add a bit of olive oil and enjoy yet again!

(I’ve yet to figure out what to do with all of the sweet little shells we end up with! String into necklaces? Crush somehow for whatever crushed shells are used for? I’m sure you’ll have ideas!)

food for thought suzanne


Serves 4


  • 500g spaghetti or spaghettoni
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil plus a spoon or two spooned over the clams and pasta before serving
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped coarse
  • 1 small dried hot pepper, crushed
  • 1 generous kilo of cockles, washed well in a colander and drained before using
  • 3-4 branches of parsley, chopped medium
  • Juice of a large lemon
  • My secret: a generous pinch of anise seed, which really enhances this sauce
  • A sprinkle of salt at the finish


In a large pasta pot, boil salted water and cook the pasta until al dente.

As the pasta cooks, rinse the clams well.

Heat the olive oil in a very large skillet over medium high heat, add the hot pepper and garlic, then quickly add all the drained clams, and cover immediately.

Cook for 3 to 4 minutes on medium heat, then lower the heat for another minute or two, check to see if the coques are open, cover again, and turn off the heat to allow the coques to steam and stay tender.

The clams should open in less than five to six minutes.

Drain the pasta, put it back in the warm pasta pot, and toss with the clam mixture and the chopped parsley.

Spoon into pasta bowls, and serve with lemon slices.

Be sure to put bowls on the table for the shells!

Meet the chef

P-O Life reader, Suzanne Dunaway, has cooked since she was 5 years old, when she made cinnamon pinwheels from her mother’s pastry dough.

She LOVES to cook. Some might say she LIVES to cook. The smells, the tastes, the textures…

She is a firm believer in simplicity and creates her recipes in the ethos of ‘anyone can cook’.

After years of experience in her own kitchen, cooking schools and private classes all over the world, in this weekly blog, Suzanne shares with us her PO-inspired creations.

With many strings to her bow, she is also an artist and columnist, with two published cookbooks.

Get a copy of her ‘No Need to Knead: Handmade Artisan Breads in 90 Minutes’ here  

Or her 5 star rated book ‘Rome, at Home: The Spirit of La Cucina Romana in Your Own Kitchen’ here

All content and recipes are copyright of Suzanne Dunaway.


If you test this recipe, please share your comments and photos in the space below.


  1. Elizabeth, hope you like the pasta, and I am happy to work in ml or cl, anything metric, and I’ve done a cookbook in metric and “cups” for two countries. But my preference is to say splash or dash or a little or a few spoons, so thank you for bringing my attention to this!

  2. Sounds lovely and I intend to try it next week.
    My only down is why we need the oil in ‘cup’ measurement. I really hate ‘cups’.

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