The Nutmeg State’s second largest city, New Haven, is identified with the white clam pizza. If you’ve never tasted the savory sensation that is white clam pizza, well then friends, you’ve been missing out. Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana on Wooster Street claims
to be the originator of this dish which dates back to the 1960s when the restaurant served little neck clams as an appetizer. Presumably, Frank didn’t think it much of a stretch to toss some clams and parmesan cheese on top of dough and call it “apizza” (ah-beets as the locals still say).
A couple of tips about white clam pizza: We don’t recommend using canned clams. They will be way too chewy. Frozen will work in a pinch but your best bet, as usual, is freshly steamed. We’ve told you before here and here how to steam clams. It really is easy so don’t be intimidated. Also, please note that the recipe below makes enough dough for two pizzas but the amount of clams and cheese is for only one pizza. Just double the amounts if you want to make two pizzas.
If you dig all things nautical, check out Mystic Seaport, the nation’s leading maritime museum with four national historic landmark vessels including the 1841 whaleship, the Charles W. Morgan, the country’s oldest commercial ship still in existence.
New Haven White Clam Pizza
For crust (will make enough for two crusts):
- I package yeast
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 ½ cups warm water
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 1/2 – 4 cups all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Cooking spray
For pizza (double these amounts if you will be making two pizzas):
- 25-30 little neck clams
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- 1 tablespoon parsley, finely minced
- Olive oil
To make crust: In a large bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in ½ cup warm water. Let sit until mixture begins to foam. Add rest of water and olive oil. Add 3 ½ cups flour, salt, and remaining sugar. Mix with a stand mixer fitted with dough hooks until well combined. If dough is too sticky add a quarter cup of flour at a time, until dough is smooth and elastic and pulls away from the bowl. Transfer dough to a large bowl that has been coated with cooking spray. Cover with a tea towel and let rise, about 40-55 minutes. Divide into two. Set aside one crust for a different kind of pizza or wrap in plastic wrap and freeze.
To steam clams: Pick through clams and discard any with cracked or damaged shells. Soak for 20 minutes in fresh water. Lift them out of the water bath (do not strain) and brush them vigorously to get rid of any excess sand. Heat 3 to 4 cups of water in a large pot. Turn down heat to medium. Add clams and cover. Steam about 4 to 6 minutes or until the shells just start to open. Do not overcook as clams will cook again on the pizza. Remove from heat and let cool. Discard any clams that do not open. Once shells are cool enough to handle, open shells, extract and chop meat coarsely.
To make pizza: Preheat oven to 550 degrees with pizza stone inside if using. Place the ball of dough down on a well-floured work surface. Using the heel of your hand, press down to flatten. Lift the dough onto a round pan or pizza paddle sprinkled with corn meal. Continuing pressing and shaping the dough. If dough is too springy, let rest about 10 minutes until the gluten relaxes, then proceed. Once dough is the appropriate size, press and shape a ½ inch crust on the edge. Brush dough with olive oil. Add Parmesan cheese, oregano, garlic and then clams. If using a pizza paddle, transfer pizza onto baking stone that has been preheating in oven. Bake at 550 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until the dough is browned and the cheese is golden. Finish with additional olive oil if desired.