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Mariner's-Style Clams

vongole alla marinara


4 dozen littleneck clams, or 4 pounds West Coast steamer clams or cockles
1 tablespoon coarse salt
extra-virgin olive oil for frying or drizzling, plus 3 tablespoons
8 slices sturdy French or Italian bread, crusts trimmed
1/4 cup water
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 or 3 small dried red peppers, or red pepper flakes to taste<
1 1/2 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
1/4 cup or more chopped fresh Italian parsley

Some Roman versions of steamed clams are fiery with peperoncini, hot red chiles. You can use as few or as many as you like. Clams from the Mediterranean are very small; many more than the two dozen littlenecks called for in this recipe would be used when making this dish in Rome. Cockles or the small West Coast clams called "steamers" (different from East Coast steamers) are closer in size to Italian clams. Vongole alla marinara is ladled over toasted slices of sturdy bread that have either been fried in extra virgin olive oil or toasted and drizzled with it. Mussels can also be cooked this way.

Put the clams in a large bowl of water with the coarse salt 1 hour before you are ready to cook them. Scrub them well under cold running water.

In a large skillet, heat 1/2 inch olive oil over medium heat until it is fragrant and fry the bread on each side until golden and crisp, about 8 minutes total. Or, toast the bread and drizzle each slice generously with olive oil. Put 2 slices of bread in the bottom of each of 4 shallow soup bowls.

In a large skillet with a tight-fitting cover, combine the salted water and clams. Add the 1/4 cup water to the pot, then add the clams. Cover tightly and place over high heat. Cook until the clams open, about 4 minutes. Transfer the clams to a large bowl. Discard any clams that have not opened. Pour the clam broth through a sieve lined with cheesecloth or a paper towel set over a bowl. Rinse the pot.

In the same pot, warm the 3 tablespoons olive oil with the garlic and red peppers over low heat until the garlic colors nicely, about 2 minutes; press on the cloves as they saute to force their juices out. Add the reserved clam broth, wine, and sea salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Increase the heat to high. Add the clams to the pot and toss well. Cover tightly and cook, tossing frequently, until heated through, about 7 minutes. Remove from the heat, sprinkle with the parsley, and ladle the clams and their liquid over the bread in the bowls. Serve at once. Serves 4.

This and many other wonderful recipes may be
found in Julia Della Croce's Roma from Chronicle Books

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