4 ripe heirloom or vine-ripened tomatoes (optional)
4 pounds cherrystone clams, scrubbed
1 cup dry white wine or crisp, light bodied beer
1 bottle clam juice (8 ounces)
1 small red onion, coarsely chopped
1 red chili pepper, coarsely chopped
Zest of 1 lemon
3-4 large cloves garlic, peeled
About 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup packed parsley leaves
2 fresh bay leaves
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
5-6 anchovy fillets
3-4 ribs celery, chopped
1 pound Idaho or Russet potatoes, peeled and diced
4 cups chicken stock
1 pound linguine or flavor-infused long-cut pasta, such as pepperoncini or lemon-flavored spaghetti or linguine
The sauce for this pasta chowder bowl can be made with or without tomatoes. If you're using tomatoes, score the skins on the bottom of the tomatoes with a large X, being careful not to cut deeper than the skin. Bring a small pot of water to a rolling boil. Add the tomatoes and cook for 1 minute, then remove the tomatoes with a slotted spoon or tongs. Cool for a minute or two until you can handle, then peel the skin and dice the tomatoes into small pieces.
Place the clams, wine and clam juice in large pot and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 8-10 minutes to open the clam shells. Scoop out the clams and shuck them; place them in a food storage container and cool completely. Store the clams in the refrigerator until ready for use. Strain the stock and reserve; wipe out the pot and return to the heat.
Meanwhile, make a seafood paste by adding the red onion, chili pepper, lemon zest, garlic, thyme, parsley and bay leaves to a food processor. Pulse-chop into a thick, but finely chopped, speckled paste.
Heat the EVOO, four turns of the pan, in the clam pot over medium to medium-high heat. Add the anchovy fillets and melt them into the EVOO, 1 minute or so, then add the paste and stir for 2 minutes. After the seasoning paste has cooked for 2 minutes, add the potatoes and celery and season with a little salt and more black pepper. Cover the pan and sweat the vegetables for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken stock with the reserved clam stock and tomatoes, simmer for 5 minutes, then cool the sauce completely and store for make-ahead meal.
To serve, bring a large pot of water to boil for pasta. Salt the water and cook the pasta to al dente. Meanwhile, heat the sauce over medium heat. Once the pasta has been dropped to cook, stir the clams into the sauce and simmer for a few minutes. Add a ladle of starchy cooking water to the sauce and toss withthe pasta for 1-2 minutes for the flavors to combine and absorb into the pasta.