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Steamed Clams with White Wine, Pancetta and Basil

Peppery pancetta, sweet red onions, meaty clams … This Steamed Clams with White Wine, Pancetta and Basil recipe has a symphony of flavors that make it delightful.

There are no early morning camp drop-offs this week. There are no schedules to juggle or morning routines to manage. This is the week we enter a new phase of summertime.

Paige is off to a sleepaway camp — her first-ever (and her final week of camp this summer). Will’s weeks of camp have ended. After this, there’s a week with their dad. Then some freedom. I am off for a week too — but it happens to coincide with Will’s first official week of cross country practice for the high school team. (They’ve been unofficially practicing all summer.)

This year we did something different. They are getting older, so camps are for fun and enrichment — but not necessarily for childcare. So they aren’t essential for every week. As we have in previous years, we worked from a camp budget, but since it didn’t have to stretch for the whole summer we could splurge on some special weeks.

For Will, that meant a camp where they built computers. For Paige, that meant sleepaway camp. For me, it meant that planning for this summer was a little less stressful than previous years where I used spreadsheets, calendars and a calculator to figure out the patchwork of camps they’d attend.

Perhaps the coolest thing, for me at least, is that it feels like we have more summer this year. With only part of summer scheduled and spoken for, there’s still so much time for adventure, fun and play. There are trails to hike, lakes to swim in, new places to explore.

And there’s a smorgasbord of fresh, local foods to be savored too. We have time for the farmers markets, fresh seafood and all the spoils of growing season.

This recipe — Steamed Clams with White Wine, Pancetta and Basil — is best made in the summertime when the basil can be plucked from the plants fresh and the onions are young and new.

(You can, of course, make this anytime with those ingredients. But fresh adds something special to the dish.)

The clams I used for this are local soft-shell ones (also known as steamers) I bought from our fishmonger, but any clams will work. I love it best with littleneck clams. It would also be great with mussels instead.

To make this, you build the flavors bit by bit. The peppery pancetta browns, rendering its fat. The sweet red onions join in, cooking until soft in that rendered fat. The clams and white wine join the party, cooking until the clams are open and cooked. Then, once inside a serving dish, sprinkle it with fresh, thinly sliced basil.


Serve this with thin slices of crusty bread. They are great for sopping up the juices.

And one more thing: this recipe doesn’t call for any salt and pepper. Resist the urge to add it. It doesn’t need it. The layers of flavors do an excellent job on their own without any additional help from these seasonings.

This is my submission for this month’s Progressive Eats virtual dinner party, and I am so excited to share it. The theme this month is Elegant Summer Evening Soiree, and we’re celebrating five years of this fun, cooperative blogging event.

I was asked to join the group earlier this year and have participated in three previous events, sharing Spring Onion Fiddlehead Risotto (spring menu), Mexican Chocolate Pots de Creme (Cinco de Mayo menu) and Deviled Eggs with Gremolata (egg menu).

Below the recipe is an index of all the recipes for this month — from appetizers to desserts. Do check them all out.

Yield: serves 4

Steamed Clams with White Wine, Pancetta and Basil

Steamed Clams with White Wine, Pancetta and Basil

Peppery pancetta, sweet red onions, meaty clams ... This Steamed Clams with White Wine, Pancetta and Basil recipe has a symphony of flavors that make it delightful.


  • 3 oz diced pancetta
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 2 lbs clams, scrubbed clean
  • ½ cup white wine
  • ¼ cup finely sliced basil


  1. Set a large saute pan over medium heat on the stove. Once heated, add the pancetta and cook until just beginning to brown. Add the onions to the pan and cook until softened.
  2. Add the cleaned clams to the pan, spreading them in a single layer. Pour in the white wine. Cover and cook for 5-8 minutes. When the clams are opened, they're done. Discard any unopened clams.
  3. Transfer the clams to a serving dish with a rim. Continue boiling the liquid in the pan for an additional 1 minute then pour the sauce over the clams.
  4. Sprinkle the basil over the clams.
  5. Serve immediately.


Serve with crusty bread for dipping in the sauce.

Welcome to Progressive Eats, our virtual version of a Progressive Dinner Party. This month’s theme is all about an elegant summer evening celebration, and our host is Barb who blogs at Creative Culinary. This event is celebrating five years of bringing together great cooks, concepts, and especially great food through the collaboration of Progressive Eats.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, a progressive dinner involves going from house to house, enjoying a different course at each location. With Progressive Eats it’s a virtual party. A theme is chosen each month, members share recipes suitable for a delicious meal or party, and you can hop from blog to blog to check them out. Come along and see all of the deliciousness we’ve put together for our celebration inspired dishes!

Elegant Summer Evening Soirée!

Celebrating 5 years of Progressive Eats ... let's have an anniversary soirée! Think twinkle lights, candles and something a bit more upscale than a regular barbecue.







Carol Borchardt

Wednesday 31st of July 2019

I love how you packed so much elegance into so few ingredients however they all matter and they all provide maximum flavor! I don't eat clams often enough but I'm definitely going to try this recipe!

Laura @motherwouldknow

Wednesday 31st of July 2019

Your comments about how summer scheduling with kids can be frantic brought back memories - not great ones, but I was with you every step of that way. Of course, after those times came the relief (as you so beautifully described) when not every minute of a kid's summer required adult-supervised caretaking. As you segued into the recipe, I was with you 100%. Now I just have to go out and buy the mussels (or clams, but I'm not such a clam person), to try out this lovely bit of summer-in-a-pot.


Tuesday 30th of July 2019

I'm so happy your summer is a little more relaxing this year. And about those clams. Oh Em Gee. How did you know that clams are my all time favorite.

Sarah Walker Caron

Tuesday 30th of July 2019

Are they? LOVE it! They are a favorite of mine too!


Tuesday 30th of July 2019

This is such a beautiful and special meal, and the addition of the pancetta and basil takes it over the top! Great choice for our main course, one that everyone will love!

Sarah Walker Caron

Tuesday 30th of July 2019

Thank you!


Tuesday 30th of July 2019

I'm going to be needing camps for childcare for a long time still, but I was literally thinking this morning after i dropped off my oldest, his face lit up in anticipation of what he's doing at camp this morning, that I feel really lucky we can afford to send him to the "fun" camps. Neither my husband nor I had that advantage.

Sarah Walker Caron

Tuesday 30th of July 2019

My kids are fortunate that they've always enjoyed their camp experiences. Well, except for one fancier camp they both hated. But what a difference it is to really indulge their interests and not worry about also budgeting for those daycamp weeks they liked but were really more about childcare.

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