Pepe’s White Clam Sauce Pasta features fresh cherrystone clams in a creamy, yet not heavy sauce. Each summer, I buy fresh cherrystone clams from Pepe’s Cream of the Crop at our local farmer’s market. Ed and Laurie Popadic, owners and operators of Pepe’s Cream of the Crop, harvest their clams from the Long Island Sound. Their clams are fresh harvested throughout the week, and the flavor is incredible.
White Clam Sauce Pasta is one of my husband’s favorite dishes when we eat out, so I decided to give Laurie’s recipe a try a few summers ago. I’ve been making it at least once each summer ever since. There are no measurements in Laurie’s recipe, so I’ve come up with my own. The secret in Laurie’s recipe is to add a little butter and heavy cream, which adds richness to the sauce without making it heavy, and adding some flour or starch to thicken the sauce so it sticks to the pasta. The result is a smooth sauce that clings to the pasta without being too heavy or gloppy.
One trick to making an awesome clam sauce using fresh clams is to cook the clams just until their shells open. During the cooking process, I remove the clams as their shells open and set them aside until serving time. This ensures tender, not tough clams.
Another tip to making delicious pasta with clam sauce is to slightly undercook the pasta and add it to the sauce to finish cooking so the pasta absorbs some clam flavor. I added fresh basil chiffonade from the farmer’s market for a beautiful and fragrant finish to this white clam sauce pasta.
Before trying Laurie’s recipe, my standard way of making white clam sauce was to saute garlic in extra virgin olive oil, add the clams and wine, then let the clams cook until the shells open. Although this is also delicious and lighter, Laurie’s creamier version is nice for a special occasion. Give this recipe a try next time you get your hands on fresh cherrystone clams and let me know what you think. And if you’re ever in Connecticut, look for Pepe’s Cream of the Crop at the local farmer’s markets.
Pepe's White Clam Sauce Pasta
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 6 cloves garlic chopped
- 1 small onion chopped
- 4 dozen littleneck clams washed and scrubbed well
- 1 cup white wine pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc
- 1 cup clam juice or chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons organic butter
- 3 tablespoons organic heavy cream
- black pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons water
- fresh basil chiffonade
- 1 pound dried pasta
- lemon wedges
Bring large pot of water to a boil. Add some salt to water. Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente.
Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large pot. Add garlic and onion, and saute until softened. Add clams, wine and clam juice. Cover and cook until clams open. Remove clams as their shells open and reserve.
Add butter and cream to clam sauce. Season with black pepper. Add al dente pasta to sauce and toss well. Stir cornstarch slurry mixture and add to sauce. Toss pasta in sauce and cook until sauce thickens.
Divide pasta and sauce among serving bowls. Top with cooked clams. Squeeze lemon juice on top. Sprinkle basil on top.