- 32 littleneck clams or Mussels
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 6 garlic cloves, halved**
- ¼ cup onion, chopped
- 28 oz can whole plum tomatoes with juice
- salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste***
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste****
- ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
- 1 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley, plus more for garnish
- Scrub the clams/.mussels with a stiff brush, rinse throughly in cold water and place in a large pot. Add cold water to just cover (or slightly less) and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until the clams/mussels open, about 5 minutes. Using tongs or a slotted spoon remove the clams/mussels to a large bowl as they open and discard any that do not open.
- Strain the cooking liquid though a chinois/strainer lined with a coffee filter. Reserve ¾ cup of the strained cooking liquid (now wonderful clam broth).
- [I purge my clams to remove sand/grit and consequently did not perform the upcoming rinsing maneuver. If you do not purge then definitely do the following step.] Return the clams/mussels to the pot, add cold water and stir to remove any remaining sand. Drain and reserve clams.
- Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium flame and sauté the garlic halves until golden, about 2 minutes. Remove garlic with tongs and discard. Add the onions to the garlic oil and sauté 3 to 4 minutes, until soft but do not brown. Coarsely chop the tomatoes and add them and their juice to the saucepan. Bring the sauce to a boil, reduce heat and simmer covered for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the tomato paste if using (not optional in my opinion) and add the basil and 1 tablespoon of parsley. Simmer UNCOVERED 5 minutes.
- Add the reserved clam broth and clams to the sauce and bring to boil. Cover the saucepan, reduce heat and simmer 8 to 10 minutes or until the clams are heated through. Spoon the clams and sauce into serving bowls, garnish with remaining parsley and serve immediately with hot crusty bread.