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Little Neck Clams in White Wine Sauce
with Tomatoes and Pancetta
By Charlie Burke

Click here for printer-friendly version of this recipe

Restaurants all over the country order New England farmed little neck
clams which are said to be of the highest quality, and I’ve heard chefs say
they can identify them by their unique flavor. Little neck clams lack the
large belly of local soft shelled clams which are served as New England’s
famous fried clams and also are nearly free of sand. Most are farmed in
the Wellfleet area of Cape Cod; shellfish farming is environmentally
friendly because the native clams live on natural nutrients in sea water
and produce no pollution.

With a briny taste of the sea and very few calories, little neck clams are
ideal for either a first course or a healthy one dish meal. For a first course,
I usually cook them with only olive oil and either lemon juice or white
wine, usually adding some garlic and herbs. This was a light supper, and
the clams were done with pancetta (bacon also works well), white wine
and a small amount of roasted tomatoes for a fuller flavor.

We sometimes serve little neck clams alone and have a salad to complete
the dinner, but here they were served over a small amount of whole
wheat pasta. Preparation is quick and easy, making littlenecks ideal for
weeknight meals as well as for entertaining.

Two servings:

24 littleneck clams
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ cup
roasted tomatoes or best quality canned tomatoes
½ cup dry white wine, such a Sauvignon Blanc
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons pancetta, coarsely chopped after being trimmed of fat
2 teaspoons dried oregano or marjoram
Kosher or sea salt for soaking clams
Freshly ground black pepper

Place clams into a strainer and shake under running water to remove
loose shell debris. Add 2 tablespoons of salt to a large bowl, add clams
and cover with cold water. Soak for 20-30 minutes (if time is limited,
simply rinse clams and start recipe).

Heat a large sauté or frying pan over medium-high heat. Add olive oil,
oregano, pancetta and garlic and cook, stirring, until garlic starts to color.
Add wine and bring to a boil, then add clams and tomatoes. Raise heat to
high, cover pan and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until clams are
opened (4-5 minutes). Discard unopened clams.

Serve immediately with the sauce. A salad and crusty bread for the sauce
completes the meal. Serve with the same dry white wine used in the
recipe. If served over pasta, do not use grated cheese which overwhelms
the flavor of the clams.

About the author: An organic farmer and avid cook, writer Charlie Burke is the
vice president of the
New Hampshire Farmer's Market Association, president of
the
NH Farm to Restaurant Connection and helps run the Sanbornton (NH)
Farmers' Market.  Along with his wife, Joanne, Charlie grows certified organic
herbs, greens and berries at Weather Hill Farm in Sanbornton, NH.  
The Heart of New England
Celebrating the unique character & culture of Maine ~ New Hampshire ~ Vermont
New England Little Neck Clams
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