This soup is a Sardinian classic. Everywhere on the island, the small hard-shell clams (arselle) thrive in the sand near the water’s edge and always have. When I was young, I loved to dig for them at the beach, purging them in a bucket of salt water and taking them home for my mother to make this clam soup. Today, any Sardinian restaurant has this soup on the menu because all Sardinians know it and anybody can make it—and should. It is a great representative of our cuisine and showcases the versatility of one of our signature pastas, fregula. It is also easy to make once you prep the ingredients. Be sure to buy fresh clams that are already purged of sand and impurities. The soup is best presented in a low, wide soup bowl so the clams can be laid around the edges of the dish.
What to buy: Fregula is a Sardinian pasta that resembles Israeli couscous. It can be found in Italian markets and online.
- 1Wash clams thoroughly with fresh water. Place clams in a large pot with 1 cup of the stock. Heat until clams open. Remove the clams with a slotted spoon and set aside, keeping warm. Pass cooking liquids through a sieve lined with cheesecloth to remove any sediment and impurities and reserve.
- 2Bring remaining stock to a boil in a saucepan. Heat 1/4 cup of olive oil over medium heat in a large pot (terra-cotta if possible). Add sliced garlic, parsley, and crushed red pepper and sauté until garlic is tender, about 1 minute.
- 3Add the reserved clam juice mixture and boiling stock. Add salt to taste (carefully, since the natural clam juice is already salty). Bring to a boil, add fregula, saffron, and tomatoes and cook 10 minutes on medium heat. Stir frequently to prevent sticking. (Add more stock if broth seems dry.)
- 4Remove pot from heat and stir in lemon zest. Divide clams among bowls, placing clams around rim. Fill with the soup. Drizzle with remaining olive oil.
Beverage pairing: Cantina di Gallura Vermentino di Gallura Canayli, Italy. While Sicily makes some good white wines, they can be hard to find. Much more easily located is good Vermentino from Sardinia, which has the dry, herbal flavors to add interest to this pairing, as well as lots of crisp acidity to keep things lively.
This recipe, while from a trusted source, may not have been tested by the CHOW food team.