Risotto with Clams

Risotto alle Vongole

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


    as a main course

Appears in

Clams in Italy are as small as a large pea and so flavorful they hardly need any seasoning. Here I add a little hot red pepper to compensate for the mild flavor of American clams. Use the juice the clams release when you steam them open as part of the liquid to cook the rice; it imbues the risotto with clam flavor.

Total time: 40 minutes


  • 3 dozen littleneck, Manila, or mahogany clams
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 6 to 8 sprigs flat-leaf Italian parsley
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • cups rice for risotto (Arborio, Carnaroli, or Vialone Nano)
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Rinse the clams in several changes of cold water until you do not see any sand at the bottom of the bowl. Put the clams in a deep skillet or sauté pan with about ½ cup water. Cover and place over high heat. Cook until all the clams are open, 3 to 5 minutes. Don’t be concerned if some clams take longer to open; they are the freshest ones. When the clams are open, take them out of the pan and set aside. Transfer the liquid remaining in the pan to a small pot and place it over low heat to keep it hot. Remove the clams from the shells and set aside.
  2. Put about 2 quarts water in a pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to maintain a very gentle simmer.
  3. Peel and finely chop the garlic. Finely chop enough of the parsley leaves to measure 2 tablespoons. Put the garlic, hot red pepper, and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed braising pan over medium-high heat. Sauté until the garlic begins to sizzle, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the parsley.
  4. Add the rice and stir until it is well coated. Add the hot clam juice and stir with a wooden spoon. Season with salt and continue stirring until all the liquid in the pan is absorbed. Add about 1 cup of the hot water and continue stirring. Add only enough water to produce the consistency of a rather thick soup and wait until all the liquid is absorbed before adding more. Continue until the rice is almost al dente, 20 to 25 minutes, then stir in the clams.
  5. Remove the risotto from the heat, season with pepper, and drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Serve at once.