Serves 4 to 6
There is not one person in my family who does not adore clams, and we eat them in a variety of ways. Stuffed clams are great for an appetizer; a big pot of clams sautéed with some onions and seasonings can make a whole meal as you pick through, enjoying the juices and slurping down the clams. As a young girl, I would go to the sea and collect clams, mostly cockles and smaller clams than what are seen in America today. This soup has also become one of our family’s favorite ways to enjoy clams. Tomato soup is a popular soup in America, but here is an Italian rendition that can be a main course. Though I have added clams, it can be made with mussels, shrimps, scallops, or even mixed seafood; just mind the cooking time that each requires. Fregola comes in different sizes. I use large ones here, but if yours are smaller, start checking for doneness after 10 minutes.
You can leave a few clams in their shells for an attractive presentation, as I do here, or remove them all.
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled, plus 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
- One 28-ounce can whole San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand
- Kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon peperoncino flakes
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 3 pounds Manila or small littleneck clams
- 1 pound fregola
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the crushed garlic and thyme, and cook until the garlic is sizzling, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and 2 quarts water. Season with 2 teaspoons salt and the peperoncino. Bring to a simmer, and cook until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat another Dutch oven or pot over medium heat. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the sliced garlic, let it sizzle for a minute, and then pour in the white wine. Bring it to a simmer, and add the clams. Cover, and cook until the clams open, about 5 minutes; discard any that do not. Remove the clams to a large bowl with a spider strainer, and strain the cooking liquid over the top. Let it cool. Pluck the clams from their shells, and leave them in the liquid, discarding the shells.
Once the tomato mixture has thickened, add the fregola and cook until it’s al dente, about 20 minutes. Stir in the clams and their liquid, and the parsley. Simmer to heat the clams through and bring all the flavors together, about 2 minutes. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil.