Linguine with clam sauce is a favorite at my house. It's both a treat, since seafood always has a bit of a treat-feel about it, and super easy and quick to make. Serve it to guests or, when clams are plentiful and not-expensive at the market, just whip it up for a weeknight dinner.
If you like your linguine with clam sauce to have a bit of tomato in it, simply add a pint or 14-ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes, chopped up, in with the wine in step 2.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, scrub the clams clean, if they need it, and set them aside in a colander.
Peel and mince the garlic. In a large pan or pot with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat, add the olive oil. Once the olive oil is hot, add the garlic. It should sizzle immediately. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the pepper flakes, if using. Add the white wine, bring to a boil, reduce heat to maintain a simmer, and cook, stirring when you think of it, until the liquid is reduced by half, about 10 minutes.
Turn the heat back up to medium-high, add the clams, cover, and cook until the clams are open and cooked through, 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the size of the clams. When they're done, add the parsley and stir to combine.
While the clams cook, add salt to the boiling water (enough so the water tastes a bit salty) and the pasta. Cook until tender to the bite (timing will vary depending on brand. Drain.
There are 2 ways to serve the pasta. First, the easy one: Divide the pasta between 4 to 6 serving bowls and top with even amounts of clams and sauce. Second, which requires a bit more effort but I prefer it: Use tongs or a slotted spoon to remove the clams from the pot (just put them in a bowl), add the pasta to the sauce in the pot and stir to toss to coat the pasta thoroughly, divide the pasta between serving bowls and top with the clams.
Serve the pasta immediately, with Parmesan cheese on the side for people to add if they like.
Note: If you buy the clams ahead of time, it's good to know the best way to store them: In a colander set over a large bowl in the fridge and covered with a damp paper towels; the idea is to keep them from drying out, but also not have them sitting in a bunch of water. If they were sold to you in a plastic bag, that's fine for getting them home, but not great for storing, since clams are alive and you don't want to suffocate them.