Baked Clams 

Vongole Ripiene 

 

Clams are a very popular antipasto in the United States, especially in the coastal areas. They can be served sautéed with garlic and oil, over pasta to make a fragrant and appetizing entree, into chowder with potatoes and broth or stuffed and baked in a variety of ways.  

 

In Italy, vongole are very small clams used to make sauce for linguine or spaghetti. In America, the clams harvested come in many size. The preferred sizes for stuffed clams are little neck clams, neck or top neck; larger clams are usually chopped, mixed with into a condiment and baked in small aluminum shells.  

 

In the Italian eateries of Rhode Island, Italian-Americans were serving clams in a half shell covered with a combination of breadcrumbs toasted in bacon grease, garlic, onions and herbs. It became a fashionable appetizer and a standard feature in all restaurants.  

 

Clams Casino are baked clams stuffed with breadcrumbs, garlic, butter, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice and bacon; Clams Rockefeller are prepared with breadcrumbs, mustard, spinach, scallions, Worcestershire sauce, butter, Tabasco and topped with a piece of bacon. Casino and Rockefeller are the trendiest recipes for stuffed clams.  

 

At Joes of Avenue U, stuffed clams were prepared with breadcrumbs seasoned with parsley, fresh oregano, a hint of garlic, a little tomato sauce and an abundance of olive oil. The first step in this preparation was to bake the clams and then broil them when ready to serve. The taste of the fresh clams, the crispy breadcrumb mixture, the various ingredients with contrasting flavors and textures result in a meal very stimulating for your palate.   

 

 

Clams

 

Serves 4 to 5 

INGREDIENTS  

  • 2 dozen littleneck clams, necks or top neck, scrubbed and rinsed   
  • 1 cup toasted breadcrumbs  
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil   
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely chopped    
  • ½ cup parsley, chopped  
  • ½ teaspoon oregano  
  • Pinch of crushed red peperoncino flakes (optional)   
  • Salt and pepper   
  • ¼ cup tomato sauce or 6 canned chopped plum tomatoes   
  • Olive oil to drizzle 
  • 2 lemons, quartered, to garnish 

 

PREPARATION 

 

The Clams 

It is important to buy fresh clams, tightly closed, with the shells whole and without chips. Scrub and rinse the clams and soak in cold water for at least 1 hour to eliminate any sand. Remove clams from the water, put in a strainer and rinse again. Place in an open container and keep in the refrigerator.  

 

When ready to shuck the clams, cover with ice; it is easier to open them when they are cold. Use a glove and the proper tool to open the clams—or have your fishmonger do it.  

In a sauté pan over medium heat, place one tablespoon of oil and one crushed garlic clove. With a wooden spoon, squeeze the garlic into the oil to release its flavor. When garlic is light golden, discard. Place the clams and a few tablespoons of water into the pot. Cover and steam for 2–3 minutes, continuously checking for open clams. As they open, remove with a tong or slotted, long-handled spoon and set aside. Discard any unopened clams. Remove mollusks from shells and set aside, reserving half of the shells. Filter the cooking liquid with cheesecloth to eliminate any sand and put on the side.  

  

Toasted BreadcrumbOlive OilGarlic

 

 

The Stuffing
In a medium bowl, combine the toasted breadcrumbs, garlic, parsley, chopped oregano, peperoncino and black pepper to taste.  

Add the oil, tomato and 3 tablespoons of the clam juice, mix well and taste for saltiness. 

If mixture is too dry and needs salt, add more clam juice or oil. 

 

 

Stuffed Clams

The Making
Place a clam into a half shell and cover loosely with 1 almost full tablespoon of stuffing. Do not pack down the stuffing. 

 

Place the stuffed clam on a baking sheet, add ½ cup of water, sprinkle on any leftover stuffing and bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. 

 

When ready to serve, drizzle with olive oil and add ¼ cup of water, place under the broiler or bake at 475 degrees until the top of the stuffing is golden brown. 

 

Place clams onto a platter, spoon some of the remaining pan juices onto each serving dish, garnish with lemon wedge and serve some spongy Italian bread to mop up the baking juices. 

 

As an aperitif and to pair nicely with the baked clams, serve a young Californian Chablis or a Sicilian Pinot Grigio produced by Feudo Arancio. 

Baked Clams