Clams in Saffron–White Wine Sauce With Garlic Bread

By Victoria de la Maza
Victoria de la Maza
Victoria de la Maza
Victoria de la Maza is an award-winning cookbook author, columnist, and international TV host. Passionate about great food, she combines American traditions with her European heritage to create classic-with-a-twist recipes and ideas for stylish entertaining at home.
September 17, 2021 Updated: September 17, 2021

There is something festive and celebratory about a pot of clams. To me, it is always a treat, evoking summer memories of blissful coastal feasts, languid lunches, and good times. It must be the fact that we need to eat them with our fingers, and mopping up the juices with bread is actually encouraged.

Based on the classic Spanish dish almejas a la marinera—sailor-style clams—this is my favorite way to prepare the shellfish: steamed in a garlicky, saffron-infused white wine broth. The typical recipe uses flour to thicken the broth, but I prefer simply reducing it, to give the clams and resulting sauce a stronger flavor.

You can make the broth ahead of time, then quickly cook the clams right before serving; it’s an excellent entertaining dish.

clams standalone
Serve these clams with plenty of garlic bread for dipping in the briny, saffron-infused sauce. (Victoria de la Maza)

Serves 4

  • 4 pounds littleneck clams
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely diced Spanish onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 1 cup dry white wine, such as pinot grigio
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 pinch saffron threads
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 cups seafood stock
  • 1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped

To purge the clams, soak in cold water for about 20 minutes, rinse, and repeat once more. One old wives’ tale advises to add sugar to the water, another a large pinch of salt; I do both.

In a large stockpot over medium heat, add the olive oil, onion, and garlic, and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the wine and reduce until almost all evaporated. Season with red pepper flakes and saffron threads, crumbled with your fingers. Add the seafood broth, season with salt and pepper to taste, and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to a low simmer and add the clams. Cover the pot with a lid and cook until the clams are open, about 6 to 8 minutes. Sprinkle the clams with parsley and serve immediately in deep bowls with toasted garlic baguettes (recipe follows) on the side. If you like, simmer the remaining sauce in the pot for a few minutes to reduce, before pouring over the clams.

Garlic Toasted Baguettes

A simple yet sensational way to add flavor and crunch, garlic bread is the finishing touch on lots of dishes—and often is the main reason I order them. I can’t imagine tomato soup, chicken parmigiana, or shrimp scampi without a slice (or two) of garlic bread on the side. Can you?

Serves 4

  • 1 baguette
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Slice the baguette into five-inch pieces and then slice them in half lengthwise.
Place the baguette pieces on a cookie sheet. Toast in the oven for about 4 minutes, until the bread just begins to brown. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.

When cool enough to handle, rub the cut side of bread all over with the cut sides of the garlic cloves. Reserve the last bits of garlic and mix them in a shallow bowl with the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Dip the cut sides of the bread into the oil, just to coat, and return to the cookie sheet. Return to the oven and toast until golden brown. Serve immediately.

Victoria de la Maza
Victoria de la Maza
Victoria de la Maza is an award-winning cookbook author, columnist, and international TV host. Passionate about great food, she combines American traditions with her European heritage to create classic-with-a-twist recipes and ideas for stylish entertaining at home.