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Le Marche: Polente con le vongole


  • 4 cups of salted boiling water
  • 1 cup polenta (not the fast-cooking type)
  • White wine to taste
  • A slice of lemon
  • 2 lbs small clams (I used Manila clams)
  • Olive oil
  • 23 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly smashed
  • 4 canned San Marzano tomatoes, rough chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley plus a little extra for garnish
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Into the salted boiling water, pour a stream of the polenta while whisking constantly. Lower heat to low and cook for about 50 minutes, whisking every few minutes.
  2. In a strainer or bowl, wash the clams thoroughly under running water to remove the surface grit.
  3. In a pot large enough to hold the clams, place the slice of lemon and a splash of water and wine (about 1 tbsp of each). Add the clams, cover and bring to a boil. Steam the clams until they have opened, shaking the pan once or twice. Remove from heat and remove lid.
  4. When the clams are cool enough to handle, remove them one at a time from the pot, letting their liquid fall back into the pot. Reserve a few clams for presentation. Remove the remaining clams from their shells and discard the shells. Place the shelled and unshelled clams in a bowl. Discard any clams that have not opened.
  5. Wipe the pot clean. Heat over medium heat and add a tbsp of olive oil and the garlic clove. Slowly toast the garlic until light brown. Add the chopped tomatoes and parsley. Cook over medium-low heat until the tomatoes are soft. Add the strained clam broth. Return to boil and reduce the heat to low. Cook until the broth has thickened, about 15 minutes. Remove and discard the garlic clove.
  6. When the polenta is ready, add the reserved clams to the sauce and heat through.
  7. Spoon the polenta into bowls. Make an indentation in the center and spoon the clam-tomato mixture over. Sprinkle the remaining parsley for garnish.


Special equipment:
• Strainer lined with cheese cloth or clean paper towels
• Wire whisk