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Under 30 Minutes

Rhode Island Clam Chowder

Living food editor Jennifer Aaronson's take on Rhode Island clam chowder is brightened by torn fresh basil leaves, added just before serving. Unlike cream- or tomato-based chowders, the Rhode Island version has a clear broth to showcase the briny best in the clams.

  • Prep:
  • Total Time:
  • Servings: 6
Rhode Island Clam Chowder

Photography: Katherine Wolkoff

Source: Martha Stewart Living, June 2012


  • 3 pounds large clams in the shell, preferably chowder or quahog, scrubbed
  • 3 slices bacon, for serving
  • 2 tablespoons bacon fat or extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion (1 medium onion)
  • 3/4 cup thinly sliced leek, white and pale-green parts only, rinsed well (about 1 leek)
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 pounds small red potatoes, preferably fingerlings, cut into chunks
  • Coarse salt (optional)
  • Fresh basil leaves, torn (from a few sprigs), for serving


  1. Bring 8 cups water to a boil in a large pot. Add clams, cover, and cook just until they open, about 5 minutes (start checking after 4 minutes and discard any chowder clams that have not opened after 6 minutes and quahogs after 7 minutes). Remove clams, and pour broth through a fine sieve into a bowl; reserve 5 cups. Remove clams from shells; roughly chop clams.

  2. Cook bacon in a medium pot over medium-high heat until crisp. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate. Add bacon fat or oil to fat in pot, and reduce heat to medium. Add onion and leek, and saute until softened, about 8 minutes.

  3. Add wine, and bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits. Add potatoes and reserved clam broth. Bring to a simmer, and cook until potatoes are tender. Stir in clams, and season with salt. Serve immediately with crumbled bacon and basil.

Reviews (2)

  • Turmid Sternly 30 May, 2014

    I actually made this recipe and it was delicious. For me, this was a revelation. Clam chowder with a clear broth? Absolutely wonderful. I couldn't give half a hoot what the purists say, this was a great recipe that allowed the flavor of the clams to shine. I don't think I will be adding cream or tomato to my clam chowder ever again.

  • Swamp Yankee 15 Nov, 2013

    You do a grave disservice to Rhode Island Clam Chowder when you muck it up with basel. It's bad enough that there are restaurants in RI with 'chefs' who think they can make RI Chowder any way they want, but true RIers know that the spices in RI Clam Chowder are limited to salt and pepper. Adding basel, parsley, thyme, or, God forbid, putting chopped celery in it changes it from clam chowder to clam soup - something that is totally unappealing.

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