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Italian Style Spicy Clams with Creamy Polenta

We love clams in our family. Bursting with briny flavors and taking but a few minutes to cook, they are perfect for any occasion.

These Italian style clams are my favorite because they have a great spicy undertone with the red pepper flakes. The base is my 'go-to tomato sauce' which only takes 20 mins to throw together and I use it for everything from dishes like this to appetizer favorites like briny olives.

I also love the fact that all you need is just a few ingredients – some garlic, the basic tomato sauce, a little wine, and clams of course.

Be sure to soak the clams in a large mixing bowl of water and add a tablespoon or two of all-purpose flour or cornmeal. It helps draw the sand and grit from the clams. Also never tip the clams from the bowl into your cooking pot to avoid the sandy residue from getting in your food. Instead, it is best to pick and scrub a few clams at a time into a fresh mixing bowl and have them ready to use. You will find a considerable amount of grit and sand collecting at the bottom of the bowl, ready to be tossed out.

For the polenta, follow the instructions to the letter and you'll end up with a pot of gorgeous creamy polenta. Once the polenta is underway, begin working on the clams and in 30 minutes with 2 burners going on the same time, its dinner done!

But your family and friends will never know just how easy it was for you to create such a delicious and heartwarming meal. This dish would be fabulous for an intimate dinner, Sunday supper or just for busy weeknights when you can’t be bothered to be slaving over a hot stove.



Recipe for

Spicy Clams with Creamy Polenta Serves 4-6

Shopping list:

5 lbs Little Neck or Manila clams

2 cups basic tomato sauce (scroll down to the bottom for recipe)

1 cup good quality dry wine such as Pinot Grigio

6 cloves garlic, peeled

2 tsp red pepper flakes

1/4 cup olive oil

Creamy Polenta:

2 cups corn grits, polenta (not the instant kind)

7 cups water

2-1/2 tsp salt

1-1/2 cups milk

1 stick unsalted butter


Begin with the Polenta:

Bring a pot with the water and salt to a rolling boil. Add the polenta and with a whisk only, and on medium heat, break up lumps as the polenta continues to adsorb water. Once the polenta thickens it will begin to burst bubbles.

Add the milk and with a spoon this time, stir the milk into the polenta. Cover with a lid and cook for about 10 minutes until the polenta is soft and creamy. Taste to ascertain this.

Add the stick of butter and continue to stir until melted. Taste and adjust salt. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm.

Clams: Soak in plenty of water with 2 tbsp. yellow corn meal to extract sand and grit. Soak for 2 hours if possible and at the very least 30 minutes.

Garlic: Slice very thin and set aside.

On medium high heat, add the olive oil to a large sauté pan. Once very hot, add the garlic cloves and as soon as they sizzle, add the basic tomato sauce, red pepper flakes, wine and stir to combine. Do not allow the garlic to burn.

Add the clams and cover the pan with a tight fitting lid. On medium-high cook for about 10 minutes. Nearly all the clams should have opened. If not, stir thoroughly and once again return lid for 2-3 minutes.

This time around, discard any unopened clams. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve hot on individual plates on a bed of creamy polenta.

Enjoy with vino you used to cook with!

Recipe for

Basic Tomato Sauce a.k.a Marinara Sauce

Makes approx. 4 cups

Shopping list

1 qty 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes (3-3/4 to 4 cups)

1 medium Spanish red onion

fresh thyme sprigs, to yield 3 tbs thyme leaves

2 garlic cloves peeled

1 small carrot

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup olive oil


Onions: Peel, discard skin and ends. Chop into ¼” pieces.

Garlic: Slice very thin and set aside.

Carrot: Peel and grate using a vegetable grater

Herbs: Separate the leaves from the stalks and using clean fingers crush to release fragrant oils.


In a heavy bottom pan, heat the olive oil on medium-high heat until it is hot and you see ripples.

Add the garlic and onions and on medium-low heat sauté for about 10 minutes until the onions have softened but have not browned.

Add the grated carrot and herbs. Sauté for a minute or so.

Add the tomatoes. Simmer with lid on the pan on medium-low heat for 20 minutes.

Taste and adjust seasonings.

Use in myriad recipes as called for. Will freeze well for several weeks.



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