Clam chowder pizza?

Make the perfect New England pizza using fresh local shellfish.

Clam Chowder Pizza uses most of the ingredients in a bowl of clam chowder. — Chris Silva

Ever since the New York Times debuted its online cooking site and app (, I’ve been obsessed with it. It’s so easy to use across all platforms, and has thousands of time-tested recipes you can save into your own curated recipe box.

One such great recipe, and one I’m working on perfecting, is for Clam Chowder Pizza. What could be better for us hardy New England folk living on an Island that produces such fantastically fresh shellfish?

It has all the ingredients of traditional clam chowder: the leeks, slab-cut bacon, heavy cream, and of course, the clams.

The recipe calls for 12 medium-size “top neck” or “cherrystone” quahog clams. Getting these at the fish market or grocery store can be a little tricky, so knowing the lingo helps. Littleneck clams range between 1⅞ and 2⅛ inches in length, while the much larger cherrystone spans between 2⅜ and 3⅛ inches in size. (I always thought it was the reverse.)

The top neck falls in between the littleneck and cherrystone, ranging from 2⅛ to 2⅜ inches. Chowders, the largest clams, grow more than 3⅛ inches, and some can reach 5 inches or more.

All this reference to sizing is really about the age of the clams — littlenecks are around four years old at harvesting, while cherrystones are about eight years old. The fact I find outstanding? Chowder-size clams can be 40 years old or more!

Back to the recipe. It calls for using a pizza stone, which, being the confirmed bachelor I am, I have never owned. Luckily, it provides a substitute: a rimless baking sheet or a sheet pan turned upside down. The latter is the method I use.

Make sure you have ample flour at your disposal to keep the surfaces from sticking as you work the dough. Putting down a sheet of parchment paper on the pan is a key step. Also, since the clam mixture can be very soupy, using a rimless pan can cause a drip hazard in the oven. It’s a good idea to lay down a sheet of tinfoil on the rack below.

A note about the dough: Of course the NYT cooking site also has a simple pizza dough recipe that’s really easy to make, and is a perfect ingredient to use here.

Perhaps the best part of the recipe? You get to use ALL the bacon fat to sauté the leeks and garlic! Then, while the white wine, reserved clam stock, and cream get added, the aroma that arises will assures you that you’re in for a fantastic pie.

Clam Chowder Pizza
Serves 4 to 8
Recipe by Sam Sifton, courtesy of

12 medium-size quahog clams, usually rated “top neck” or “cherrystone,” rinsed
1½ cups dry white wine
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
¼ lb. slab bacon, diced
2 leeks, tops removed, halved and cleaned, then thinly sliced into half-moons
3 cloves garlic, peeled and mince
3 Tbsp. parsley, roughly chopped
½ cup heavy cream
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
1 9- to-10-ounce ball pizza dough, ideally homemade (about ⅗ pound)
2¾ ounces fresh mozzarella, roughly torn
1 tsp. lemon zest
Calabrian or other red pepper flakes, to taste

Place a pizza stone or tiles on the middle rack of your oven, and turn heat to its highest setting. Let it heat for at least an hour.

Put the clams in a large, heavy Dutch oven, add about 2 cups of water and ¾ cup of the wine, then set over medium-high heat. Cover, and cook until clams have opened, approximately 10 to 15 minutes. Strain clam broth through a sieve lined with doubled-up paper towels, and set aside. Remove clams from shells, chop roughly and set aside.

Rinse out pot and return to stove. Add butter, and turn heat to medium low. Add bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until the bacon has started to brown, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove bacon from fat; set aside.

Add leeks to fat and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, then add garlic and half of the parsley. Continue cooking and stirring until the leeks are soft but not brown, about 5 minutes more.

Stir in remaining wine and approximately 1 cup of reserved clam stock, and continue cooking until liquids have reduced almost to syrup.

Add cream and black pepper. Let the mixture come to a bare simmer, then allow to reduce and thicken. Then add reserved clams and remove from heat.

Make the pizza. Lightly flour a work surface, and stretch or roll the dough into a 12-inch round. Place on a lightly floured pizza peel or rimless baking sheet. Using a pastry brush or a spoon, lightly paint the surface of dough with some of the cream from the clams, leaving a half-inch border all around. Then top pizza with the chopped clams, bacon and leeks, and cheese.

Carefully slide pizza directly onto the baking stone. Cook until crust has browned on bottom and top is bubbling and browning in spots, about 7 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining parsley, lemon zest, and red-pepper flakes to taste, then serve.