Clams Arrabbiata

When we were in the process of the moving to the home we are currently in, I was immediately drawn to the built in bookshelves in the kitchen. The previous owners had it staged with various vases and tasteful knick-knacks, but what I saw was an opportunity to house my hundreds of cookbooks. I’ve been collecting cookbooks for most of my adult life. I cook from a few faithfuls, but generally they are bought to look through, admire the photography and spark ideas and then find a place on the shelf.

Same goes for magazines. I subscribe to a variety of cooking magazines and when they get delivered I page through them, occasionally folding down a page to a recipe I may want to make but generally the magazines stack up on my nightstand or coffee table. I was cleaning up the other day and saw an old copy of my Bon Appetit magazine and starting flipping through it, landing on a dog-eared page for clams arrabbiata.

I love clams. Generally I love all seafood (except oysters) but clams are a paticular favorite of mine. I love them with linguine in a white or red sauce, big, fat belly clams fried in a clam roll, and steamers with drawn butter. This recipe had easy, accessible ingredients that made for a great summer meal with a simple salad and a sourdough baguette.

I made a few variations to the dish. First of all, I doubled the amount of clams. Probably more than doubled cause only 3 of us ate the dish. The original recipe called for 24 clams for 4 people. I bought 48 for 3. Littleneck clams are teeny tiny. I could probably eat 3 dozen myself without batting an eye.

It’s easy to find little neck clams at a supermarket, but I got mine from a local fish market, hand picked and put in a brown paper bag with some ice to keep them cool till I got home. You definitely want to clean clams prior to cooking. Throw them into a bowl of water and let them sit. The extra sand will sink to the bottom of the bowl. When you remove the clams to add to your recipe, you want to make sure you just remove the clams from the top down, don’t dump them in a strainer, as you will dump the sand back on to them, defeating the purpose of cleaning them in the first place.

The next alteration I made was to the amount of oil I used. The original recipe called for 3 tablespoons of olive oil, but I cut that back to one tablespoon. I figured the pancetta that was added to the pot early on would render a good amount of fat to carry the other flavors.

As mentioned in the original recipe, you add the ingredients in an order and allow time for the flavors to meld together before adding the next layer.

onion and pancetta
break up the tomatoes by hand before adding to the pot
red pepper flakes puts the spice in the arrabbiata
reduce the tomato mixture down until thick and jam like
when removing the clams pick over them and discard the ones that don’t open
I used small shells as my pasta choice.
a few torn leaves of basil and bring the pot right to the table

Clams Arrabbiata

  • 1 tlb. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 oz. thinly sliced pancetta (Italian bacon), chopped
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • ¾ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 48 littleneck clams, scrubbed
  • 4 oz. small shaped pasta (about 1 cup)
  • Handful of torn basil leaves
  • bread (for serving)
  1. Cook oil and pancetta in a medium Dutch oven over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until pancetta begins to crisp, about 5 minutes. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, 6–8 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Stir in red pepper flakes.
  2. Add tomatoes, crushing with your hands as you go; increase heat to medium-high. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring often, until tomato liquid is reduced by half and tomatoes take on a jammy consistency, 12–15 minutes. Add clams and 2 cups water. Cover pot and cook, stirring occasionally and reducing heat as needed to maintain a simmer, until clams begin to open, 8–10 minutes. Uncover pot and transfer opened clams with a slotted spoon to a plate. Re-cover pot and continue cooking clams until they open, up to 15 minutes longer; discard any clams that haven’t opened by this time.
  3. Add the to pot and cook, stirring often (pasta will want to settle and stick to the bottom of the pot), until al dente, 8–10 minutes. Add clams back to pot.
  4. Ladle clams and sauce among bowls; top with basil. Serve with bread alongside for dipping.

Recipe adapted from Chris Morocco (Bon Appetit Magazine)