This recipe is about the affinity that clams and bacon have for each other. In order to highlight these flavors, I decided to combine baked clams with Amatriciana sauce (which is a classic Roman pasta sauce, featuring tomato and either pancetta or guanciale). Littleneck clams are steamed open, and the clam meat gets finely diced, tossed with amatriciana sauce, and put back into the shell to bake. I tried a version of this recipe where the clam meat is left whole, but I found it too hard to eat (it was chewy).
Please note that this recipe will yield about 1 pint of amatriciana sauce, but only ¼ cup of that sauce is necessary to dress a portion of 12 clams. You can reserve the rest of the sauce and use it with pasta. Remember that if you want to double or triple this recipe and serve 24 or 36 clams, you do not need to double or triple the amount of amatriciana sauce. —Josh Cohen
12 baked clams
For the Clams
clove of garlic, crushed
littleneck clams, rinsed in cold water to remove grit
For the Sauce
pancetta, finely diced (or guanciale)
cloves minced garlic
red chile flakes
small red onion, finely diced
14 1/2-ounce can crushed tomatoes
finely grated Pecorino Romano
finely chopped fresh parsley
In This Recipe
Set a large skillet over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 crushed clove of garlic. When the butter is melted and foaming, add the clams and the white wine. Adjust the heat to high, bring the white wine to a boil, and cover the clams with a lid. Check the clams every few minutes, stir them, and remove any open clams to a mixing bowl. Removing the clams as they open will prevent them from overcooking. When all of the clams have opened, turn off the heat and do not discard the remaining cooking liquid from the clams. When the open clams are cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the shell. Save the clam meat and the shells separately. Strain the leftover cooking liquid from the clams and reserve ¼ cup. The rest can be discarded.
Separate the top of each empty shell from the bottom. Rinse the empty shells to remove any grit. Store the empty shells in the refrigerator until ready to use. Finely dice the clam meat and store it in the refrigerator.
Set a large pot over medium heat and add the pancetta. Stir regularly until the bottom of the pot is coated with rendered pancetta fat. When the bottom of the skillet is coated with rendered fat, you can stir less frequently. Cook the pancetta until it looks brown and crispy. Using a slotted spoon, remove the pancetta from the skillet. Keep the rendered pancetta fat in the pot.
Add 1 tablespoon of butter to the pot with the rendered pancetta fat. Adjust the heat to medium. When the butter is melted and bubbling, add 3 cloves of minced garlic, along with the chile flakes and the red onion. Stir regularly, until the onion and garlic are soft and beginning to caramelize. Add the cooked pancetta back into the pot. Add the crushed tomato. Add the reserved ¼ cup of clam cooking liquid to your amatriciana sauce and stir to incorporate. Allow the tomatoes to cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Mix ¼ cup of the amatriciana sauce with the diced clam meat. Reserve the rest of your amatriciana sauce for another use. If you are making this dish immediately, begin to fill the clam shells with a dollop of the clam mixture. You can also store the clam mixture in your refrigerator for up to 48 hours before completing and serving this dish.
Preheat the oven to 450° F. Top each clam with a small pinch of Pecorino Romano and a small pinch of finely chopped parsley. Drizzle the smallest about of olive oil over the top of each clam. Bake the clams for 3 to 5 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling inside the clam shell. Serve and enjoy.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, I'm perpetually inspired by the diversity of foods that exist in this city. I love shopping at the farmer's market, making ingredients taste like the best versions of themselves, and rolling fresh pasta.