Boozy Date Night Clams and Capellini

January 26, 2011
3 Ratings
  • Serves 2
Author Notes

Growing up, we never ate shellfish due to my Dad’s severe allergy. My introduction to shrimp, scallops, clams and mussels did not happen until right after college, when I lived in Boston. Splurge date nights would be spent in the North End, discovering the fruits of the sea. Fast forward ten years, five thousand miles, and two kids later, and date nights, though few and far between, are especially relished. This recipe is a nod to my favorite date night haunt, which has a terrific starter of mussels served in a boozy broth. Last summer I played around with tomato sorbet and chilled tomato soup and here I wanted the flavor without all the pulp. Although this was my first time making clams, I am happy to report, it was stress free and I will be making this often. Note: Make Tomato-Fennel water one day ahead. - gingerroot —gingerroot

Test Kitchen Notes

One word: Delicious. This dish really delivers on the flavor. The boozy broth, sweet sun-dried tomatoes, rich salty olives and slightly chewy briny clams are like a symphony for your mouth. I didn't have oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes so added the air-dried ones I had to the broth so they'd soften, and it worked out perfectly. My clams were pretty small so cooked in about 5 minutes. The tomato-fennel water requires some patience, and my blender was not a fan of the fennel stalks, but it is worth the effort and wait. The rest of the dish is pretty simple and quick to put together - perfect for a mid-week supper with your sweetie. My husband and I give this recipe two thumbs up! —hardlikearmour

What You'll Need
  • Tomato-Fennel Water
  • 1 large ripe tomato
  • 3 stalks fennel (remove excess fronds)
  • 1 Thai bird chili
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt
  • For the clams and capellini
  • 1 lb Manila clams
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced spring onions (can substitute scallions)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup dry vermouth
  • 1/2 cup tomato-fennel water
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped sun dried tomato
  • 3 tablespoons oil cured black olives
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 8 ounces capellini
  1. Tomato-Fennel Water
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Core tomato and score the bottom with a small “x.” Blanch tomato by plunging into boiling water for 10 seconds, followed by an ice bath. Slip off skins and discard. Quarter the tomato and puree (including seeds) in a blender until smooth. Using a thin tea towel or 4 layers of cheesecloth set over a glass measuring cup (I used a rubber band to secure), pour puree over and allow tomato “water” to begin collecting in the glass. Set glass aside.
  4. On a large baking sheet, season fennel stalks with a few good glugs of olive oil and two pinches of sea salt. Roast for 13-15 minutes until softened and fragrant. Cool for a bit, and then cut stalks in half and place in blender (since tomato and fennel will be eventually mixed, I did not clean out my blender). Pour any oil from baking sheet into top of blender and puree, using a spatula to scrape down the sides. The stalks are fibrous so need a bit of patience to puree. Add up to 1 ounce of water to help with this process.
  5. Check on your tomato water, using a clean spatula to carefully help press the water out from the pulp. You want to end up with ¼ cup of tomato water. My water did have a slight pink tinge to it. Discard solids.
  6. Repeat the process with the fennel puree, using the same piece of cheesecloth and measuring cup. You want ¼ cup of fennel water (or a total of ½ cup of tomato - fennel water). Discard solids.
  7. Cut off the end of the chili. Remove most of the seeds. Add chili to tomato-fennel water and cover cup with plastic. Refrigerate. Remove chili after one to two hours and discard. Return mixture to fridge and continue to chill overnight.
  1. For the clams and capellini
  2. Inspect clams and discard any that are chipped or ones that are open and do not close after you tap them. Clean clams by placing them in a bowl of cold water for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove each clam, scrub the shell and discard the water. Rinse out bowl and replace clams. Set aside.
  3. Start your pasta water.
  4. Heat olive oil and butter in a large (12 inch) skillet (with a lid) over medium heat. Add spring onions and garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant and softened about 2 minutes. Add vermouth and tomato-fennel water. Cook mixture for a minute. Add clams. Close lid and let steam for 7-10 minutes (liquid should be simmering). Stir clams once while cooking.
  5. Cook your pasta. Capellini takes about 4-5 minutes.
  6. Drain pasta and place in serving bowl. Toss pasta with sundried tomatoes, black olives and parsley.
  7. Cooked clams will open. Discard any clams that are still closed after cooking. Ladle boozy broth and clams over pasta, tossing to combine. Serve immediately and enjoy with crusty bread.
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  • Sabine Gagnon
    Sabine Gagnon
  • gingerroot
  • edamame2003
  • mrslarkin
  • hardlikearmour

Recipe by: gingerroot

My most vivid childhood memories have to do with family and food. As a kid, I had the good fortune of having a mom who always encouraged trying new things, and two grandmothers who invited me into their kitchens at a young age. I enjoy cooking for the joy it brings me - sharing food with loved ones - and as a stress release. I turn to it equally during good times and bad. Now that I have two young children, I try to be conscientious about what we cook and eat. Right about the time I joined food52, I planted my first raised bed garden and joined a CSA; between the two I try to cook as sustainably and organically as I can. Although I'm usually cooking alone, my children are my favorite kitchen companions and I love cooking with them. I hope when they are grown they will look back fondly at our time spent in the kitchen, as they teach their loved ones about food-love. Best of all, after years on the mainland for college and graduate school, I get to eat and cook and raise my children in my hometown of Honolulu, HI. When I'm not cooking, I am helping others grow their own organic food or teaching schoolchildren about art.

15 Reviews

Sabine G. July 24, 2013
Woooooo weeee! I made this recipe last night and it was absolutely fantastic! So delicious and easy. I didn't have time to allow the fennel to collect it's water over night as I was making it to eat in just a couple of hours, and to be honest, it was a bit much for me. So, I added 1/2 cup diced roasted fennel to the pot where I steamed my clams as well as a 1/2 shot of anise liquor to get the fennel flavor. My husband said 'If you made this for me on our first date night, just by smelling it, I would have married you'. I think it's safe to say that it's a winner! Thank you for the recipe! I'll be making it for years to come!
gingerroot July 25, 2013
So glad to hear it, Sabine! Thanks so much for letting me know. PS, that is a perfect short cut with the fennel - love your addition of anise liquor.
gingerroot January 29, 2011
NOTE: Whoops, I just noticed an error, olives should be pitted and finely chopped (about 8-10 olives) for 3 tablespoons.
zest I. January 28, 2011
This looks delicious!
gingerroot January 29, 2011
Thanks, zest in the midwest!
edamame2003 January 26, 2011
tomato fennel--great idea. looks fantastic and date worthy!
gingerroot January 27, 2011
Thanks, Eda! It comes together easily with lots of flavor, for relatively little effort.
mrslarkin January 26, 2011
Yum! This sounds really really good!!
gingerroot January 26, 2011
Thanks mrslarkin! : )
hardlikearmour January 26, 2011
This sounds amazing, and your instructions are perfect. Do you use sweet or dry vermouth?
gingerroot January 26, 2011
Thanks so much hardlikearmour! If you like clams, I hope you try it. Oh, and I used dry vermouth - thanks for that too, I edited my recipe above.
aargersi January 26, 2011
VERY cool process on the tomato-fennel water! I will try it this summer when my (hopefully bountiful) tomato crop comes in. This dish looks amazing!!
gingerroot January 26, 2011
Thanks aargersi! I hope you do try it - I have to say, remembering your recipes from last summer, I have tomato envy. : )
Midge January 26, 2011
Love this. Sounds better than anything I've had in the North End!
gingerroot January 26, 2011
Aw, thanks so much Midge! Since it was my first time cooking clams I was a little worried - when I bought them, I thought, are they alive (tap tap)? And again before cooking, are they still alive? But it all worked out and I was happy that they all opened and were delicious.