Citizens, we will conclude our tour of micro-regional pizza styles with this one from my home state of Connecticut – the legendary white clam pizza from New Haven!
I know, you are probably thinking TFD has finally had one Chateau d’Yquem 1983 too many and lost his gustatory sensibilities. Clam? PIZZA?
Before you think or say anything further – watch this video and you’ll learn why this pizza has been ranked NUMBER 1 IN AMERICA.
This is one of my all-time favorite pizzas on the planet and is supremely delicious – but it is by no means a standard “pizza”.
New Haven-style pizza, locally known as apizza ( from Neapolitan ’a pizza (“the pizza”), is a style of thin-crust, coal-fired Neapolitan pizza common in and around New Haven, Connecticut. It originated at the Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana and is now served in many other pizza restaurants in the area, most notably Sally’s Apizza and Modern Apizza. This geographically limited pizza style has been favorably referenced by national critics.
In a New Haven-style pizzeria, a “plain” pizza is crust, oregano, and tomato sauce with a little bit of grated pecorino romano cheese sprinkled on and does not include Mozzarella. A “plain” New Haven style pizza may also be called a “tomato pie”. Mozzarella is considered to be a topping; a customer who wants it must ask for it.
Pepe invented the “white clam pie.” Pepe’s restaurant served littleneck clams on the half shell at the bar, which he later added to the pizza. The white clam pie is crust, olive oil, oregano, grated cheese, chopped garlic, and fresh littleneck clams.
What makes New Haven style pizza distinct is its thin, oblong crust, characteristic charring, chewy texture, and limited use of melting cheeses. It tends to be drier and thinner than, but closely related to, traditional New York-style pizza. Both styles in turn are close descendants of the original Neapolitan style.
New Haven-style pizza is traditionally baked in a coal-fired oven at extremely hot temperatures in excess of 650 °F (343 °C) and is sold whole rather than by the slice.
Although most commonly available in the New Haven area, New Haven-style pizza has begun to spread to other parts of Connecticut. It has been available in the Italian-American areas of Bridgeport, and other shoreline communities for many years. It is beginning to be served in areas typically not known for large Italian-American populations, including towns in northern and central Connecticut as well as other cities across the United States.
Citizens, few things in life make me happier than an entire pie of this, and I hope you will see past the clam and try what is assuredly one of the great pizzas on this Earth! I used to drive 90 minutes to New Haven just to eat this pizza when I lived in southern CT – that should tell you something.
My recipe adheres closely to the original, with three minor changes – I call for my favorite pizza chili flake (the smoky and delicious urfa biber from Turkey) and I use fresh oregano instead of dried.
Lastly, I use a special trick to add savory goodness to the pie – brushing on 1 tbsp. of melted bacon fat to the dough before adding the toppings. This makes for an amazing pie, but is absolutely NOT in the original recipe. Omit it if you prefer.
Pepe’s uses whole, live fresh Littleneck clams from Rhode Island and shucks them on-site. You should have your fishmonger shuck the clams for you – DO NOT USE CANNED CLAMS UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. The dough recipe is one that I found on the Washington Post website and is ideally suited to this type of pie.
Battle on – the GeneralissimoPrint
- For the dough:
- 3 cups bread flour or all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface
- ½ tsp active dry yeast
- ¾ tsp kosher salt
- 1 ½ cups 2 percent milk
- 2 tbsp. olive oil, plus more for the bowl
- 3 tbsp. flour
- 2 tbsp. cornmeal
- 1 tbsp. melted bacon fat (this is NOT in the original recipe, but is a TFD trick for adding umami to any pizza – it will NOT taste of bacon)
- 36 raw Littleneck clams, freshly-shucked
- ½ cup freshly-grated Italian Pecorino Romano cheese
- 3–4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced fine
- 4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil – preferably from Puglia
- 2 tbsp. minced fresh oregano (TFD change, original called for dried oregano)
- 1 tbsp. or to taste Urfa biber pepper flakes (TFD preference) or regular red pepper flakes
- Whisk together the flour, yeast and salt in a large mixing bowl, then pour in the milk and oil. Use a fork or your clean hands to combine; the dough will be sticky. Knead once or twice to form a ball.
- Oil a large bowl and set the dough in it. Lay a sheet of wax paper loosely over the top, then cover with plastic wrap. Place a clean dish towel over the bowl and allow the dough to rise at room temperature, undisturbed, for 24 hours. Turn the dough once in the bowl about 3 hours before you want to use it. The 24-hour fermentation process takes the place of kneading the dough.
- When you are ready to grill your pizza, divide the dough in half, put half back in the fridge for a future pizza.
- Preheat your oven to a minimum of 450 degrees or higher with the stone or steel in it for at least 30 minutes. As hot as you can get it!!!
- Toss the flour on your work surface and spread it thin. Place the dough in the center and begin working it outward and roll it thin, less than ¼”. It doesn’t need to be a circle – in fact, an irregular-shaped pie is the standard.
- Move it to a peel if you are cooking on a pizza stone (or my preference – a steel) or to an oiled pan – either works fine. Put some cornmeal on the peel or pan to help the dough slide on and off, and for a bit of flavor.
- If using, brush the dough with the melted bacon fat. Pat the clams dry and place them on the dough, spreading them out evenly, and take them to within 1″ of the edge.
- Then sprinkle on the garlic, then the cheese, then the oregano, then the pepper flakes and finally drizzle on the oil. The oil will pool but don’t worry, it will spread out in the oven. You can also take a brush and paint a little oil on the edges of the dough.
- Bake until the dough on top and the bottom is tan to golden. If you wish, you can let it go until there is a slight blackening on the bottom, but too much char can ruin your pie. Whatever you do, don’t pull the pie until the clams are cooked through.
- Category: Recipes
- Calories: 851.57 kcal
- Sugar: 5.49 g
- Sodium: 1073.12 mg
- Fat: 32.97 g
- Saturated Fat: 8.58 g
- Trans Fat: 0.1 g
- Carbohydrates: 95.06 g
- Fiber: 3.81 g
- Protein: 41.24 g
- Cholesterol: 66.69 mg
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