Serves a Crowd

Portuguese Cataplana

July 14, 2021
11 Ratings
Photo by Linda Xiao
  • Serves 4 to 6, generously
Author Notes

"Cataplana" is the word for both the dish and the spherical pot it's cooked and served in. This pork and seafood stew is found in the Algarve, in Portugal. You don't need a cataplana to make this; a Dutch oven or large pot with a tight-fitting lid does the trick (though it may not be quite the same).

The shrimp stock recipe was adapted from My Portugal by George Mendes. The cataplana recipe was inspired by David Leite, The New York Times, and the well-lit photos of Trip Advisor. —Annie Crabill

What You'll Need
  • Shrimp Stock
  • 3 pounds large, head-on shrimp
  • 1 splash Olive oil
  • 2 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 pinch saffron threads
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 quarts water
  • 5 sprigs parsley
  • Cataplana
  • 4 pounds littleneck clams
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 ounces linguica, chorizo, or other type of cured Spanish sausage, sliced into 1/4-inch coins
  • 2 thin slices prosciutto, chopped
  • 2 large onions, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced into half-moons
  • 1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 pinch saffron threads
  • 1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika (omit if your sausage is seasoned with paprika)
  • 14 1/2 ounces can (the small one) whole San Marzano tomatoes, drained and roughly chopped
  • 1 splash dry white wine (vinho verde is perfect)
  • 6 cups prepared shrimp stock, or high-quality store-bought shrimp or fish stock, (up to 8 cups)
  • 2 pounds large shrimp (de-shelled, de-veined, and de-headed, from the shrimp used for the shrimp stock)
  • 1/3 cup cream
  • 1 pinch Fresh parsley to garnish
  1. Shrimp Stock
  2. Clean your shrimp under cold running water. Remove the head with a sharp knife, then de-shell the bodies. You'll be using the heads and shells as the flavor base of the stock. (Reserve the bodies for the cataplana!)
  3. Heat a large, deep saucepan or Dutch oven on the stove over medium-high heat. Coat the bottom of the pan with a thin layer of oil, then add the shrimp heads and shells and cook until browned. Add the onions, garlic, bay leaves, and saffron, sweating until the onions are soft but not browned. Add the butter and tomato paste, cooking for a minute or so, then cover with 2 quarts water. Heat to a simmer, and let bubble away (at a moderate, not aggressive) simmer, for about 30 to 45 minutes.
  4. Remove from the heat, add the parsley sprigs, and let stand for 15 minutes.
  5. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer, pressing on the solids to release all of their flavor. Discard the solids. You can use the stock immediately, refrigerate for up to 2 days, or freeze for up to 2 months.
  1. Cataplana
  2. Soak your clams in a large bowl filled with ice and water for at least 15 minutes—this will help them release some of the sand in the shells. Then scrub and rinse under cold water.
  3. Heat olive oil in a cataplana pot (or a Dutch oven or other large pot with a tight-fitting lid) until shimmering, then add sausage and prosciutto. Brown, stirring occasionally, until the sausage gets a little color and the prosciutto starts to look like it’s crisping, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the onions and pepper and continue to cook, stirring now and then, until the onions are soft but not brown, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook one minute more. Add the bay, pinch of saffron, paprika, tomatoes, and splash of white wine, stirring to deglaze the pan. Slowly add the shrimp stock, then cook at a low simmer for about 20 minutes, until the tomatoes lose their tinniness and all the flavors have sufficiently co-mingled.
  4. Increase the heat to bring to a boil, add in the shrimp and clams, lock the cataplana, and cook about 5 to 10 minutes, shaking occasionally. If using a Dutch oven, cook, covered, stirring occasionally until the clams pop open, 5 to 10 minutes. Once the clams have opened, slowly stream in the cream and stir, then shower with fresh parsley.
  5. Serve the cataplana right at the table, with bread, little fried potatoes, or white rice.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • iberica
  • Howie 321
    Howie 321
  • Aimee Dooday
    Aimee Dooday
  • lisamulroo

8 Reviews

iberica November 6, 2022
This recipe is delicious. I definitely recommend using an authentic cataplana for this recipe if you can.
Howie 3. August 21, 2022
I made this dish for the first time and served it up to 10 people on the bbq having prepared the stock and other ingredients beforehand. It was an absolute triumph. Amazing taste that I remember from my visits to Portugal. The next day 4 of those attending the bbq asked for the recipe. Using the prawn shells for the stock made the difference between good and amazing so if you try this recipe please make the stock as detailed.
Aimee D. June 18, 2022
Made this recipe (except used clam broth) without using cataplana It was delicious. Will make it again now that I have a cataplana.
lisamulroo April 30, 2022
I had to simplify this recipe quite a bit, but it was still INCREDIBLY delicious. I used simple ham for the pork, and went with shrimp and monkfish because the seafood selection was poor at the store this week. I used chicken broth in place of the seafood broth, and leftover tomato sauce for the tomato portion. 100% looking forward to making this with more shellfish next time
Claireclay January 23, 2021
Absolutely love this dish! Would definitely recommend.
Claireclay January 23, 2021
I have cooked this a few times and every time it is perfect! Love it
Chris A. January 31, 2021
I just acquired a pot- haven't even opened yet- can't wait to give it a try !
Claireclay February 3, 2021
You won’t regret it