July: Amalfi Clams

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Simply the Best Clams Ever!

Amalfi Clams 3 with script

Buon giorno!

Did I just say the best clams EVER??? I did and I do! You will want these AMALFI CLAMS on your summer menus. Whether you offer them as a first course, appetizer, or main event, prepare yourself for the raves! In fact I highly recommend making twice a much as you planned. These are just that wonderful. This is truly a dish to remember.

The Amalfi coast is known for their phenomenal seafood and seafood preparations. The squid, the mussels, the crab, the clams, the cuttlefish and sea urchins – it is a treasure trove of wonder when one thinks of the bounty that comes from this area.The tiny clams, in particular, that they serve are tender and sweet.

In making the clams for this recipe, I highly recommend using Manila Clams or the small Littlenecks. You can use the larger ones but this dish is a little more delicate and I think better with the smaller clams. The clams will emit liquid, salt, and flavor. Therefore you will not see salt in the ingredients list. If you taste them, after cooking, and still think they need it – then add the salt – but this is one of those flavor experiences that is best created by the ingredients themselves. All you need to do is add them!

I would serve this dish anytime, but it just seems better in the heat of the summer when you let your senses drift to dreams of the gentle Amalfi breezes during this season. Simply taste the broth, and just float, as they say.

If you serve this one as a main course, I would suggest rice rather than pasta. This is such a delicate dish that pasta is almost too much for it. I especially love serving it, on its own, in bowls, as a first course or appetizer, with plenty of broth and a crusty grilled sliced of bread with olive oil. You need nothing else — unless of course, it is the remainder of that bottle of Prosecco you just used to make it!

Does the tiny bit of Sambuca make a difference and what is Sambuca doing in the dish anyway? Good question – who asked it? Oh! that was moi! The Sambuca gives it a slight edge. It is similar to the use of Pernod by the French in Bouillabaisse and by me in my Zuppa di Pesce! Without this little kick – it just isn’t the same – but please just a touch.

Vieni sul mar,
vieni a vogar,
sentirai l’ebbrezza
del tuo marinar.

(la – la la – la -la…)

Serves: 2

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: 16-18 minutes


2 dozen Fresh Littleneck Clams or Manila Clams

4 Tbsp. Butter

2 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Whole Shallot (usually a double bulb)

1 Cup Finely chopped Sweet Peppers – I like the mini peppers

1 Fennel Bulb – chopped

Dash Red Pepper flakes

2 Cloves Fresh Garlic chopped finely

Pinch of Saffron Threads

1 Cup Prosecco (or Cava or Champagne)

1-2 Tsp. Sambuca (or Pernod)

3 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Italian Parsley

A generous squeeze of fresh Lemon

Some Fennel fronds for garnish – These are the fine and delicate greens that emanate from the fennel bulb. They smell wonderful and make a great garnish.


Scrub your clams lightly with a brush under some running water and set them aside in the refrigerator while you prepare. Do not seal them up as they are living things and need to breathe. Think about it – you wouldn’t want someone sealing you up in a ziploc bag until dinner time!

Melt your butter in the olive oil and add the peppers, shallots, fennel and red pepper flakes. Cook on Medium High about 5 minutes.

Amalfi Clams 1

Add garlic and cook another minute being careful not to brown or burn the garlic.

Add your clams!

Crush the saffron threads with your fingers and add them to the Prosecco. Now pour the Prosecco and Sambuca into the pan.

Amalfi Clams 2

Add the parsley and quickly cover the pan.

Simmer about 8-10 minutes. If your clams are large you may need a few more minutes. Make sure ALL the clams open, and discard any that do not. Larger clams might take a couple of minutes more.

Give a quick squeeze of the lemon.

There are two ways to serve the loveliness of these AMALFI CLAMS:  Serve them piled high in a bowl with a large grilled slice of crusty bread brushed with olive oil OR you can serve them over rice. Either way – you will love them and serve them often as I do. There is simply no better summertime seafood dish than this one!

Amalfi Clams finish with script


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Stuffed Strawberry Boats

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Strawberries Stuffed RW_042313_0025

Buon giorno!

Sail away with me – off the shore of Capri, the Bay of Naples, the Pontine Islands, or perhaps explore the sea caves of Sardinia! The Regatta Italiana has begun –the boats have arrived – a flotilla of sailing vessels coming in with the gentle ocean breezes from a day of adventure on the water. Imagine the tiny boats sailing in from a sunny day on the sparkling waters of the Mediterranean.  This is how I think of these little STUFFED STRAWBERRY BOATS –as tiny boats floating, if you will, on a sea of chocolate or even fresh mint. In any case, no matter how far your imagination takes you, these little “boats” are the toast of the strawberry season.

They are easy to make and so delicious. You’ll want to make extra, as they disappear quickly. They are the perfect dessert for warm spring or summer evenings on the patio. You’ll want to serve them often as a light ending to a heavy meal or even an addition to your cocktail appetizers with a bubbly beverage.

These STUFFED STRAWBERRY BOATS have 5 ingredients: strawberries, mascarpone cheese, powdered sugar, dark chocolate and Sambuca. The key ingredient is the Sambuca! (anise extract can be substituted – but use less of it as it is quite concentrated) The anise flavor is nothing short of perfection when paired with the strawberries.

About Sambuca: This is a lovely Italian liqueur, clear and with the flavor of anise. Sambuca dates back to the 1800’s, and its name comes from the Latin word “sambucus” which means elderberry. You’ll find Sambuca in other colors – black or blue for instance. The one you want here is the one most commonly found – clear – or referred to as “white”.  It is often served in Italy and among Italians, along with 3 coffee beans, as an accompaniment to espresso.  This is called “Caffe Coretto” – a recipe for this can be found by scrolling down to it on the New Stuff Page on the Linda’s Italian Table website.


If you want to make your stuffing, a day ahead and refrigerate – you can. So get your fresh strawberries, make your stuffing, relax and fuggedaboutit! Let’s set sail now!


Stuffed Strawberries A

Makes: about 20 (the amount depends on the size of your berries and how much you fill them

Prep: 15 minutes


About 20 Fresh Ripe Strawberries (number will depend on the size and how much you fill them)

Melted Dark Chocolate – I like a dark chocolate that is 60% cacao for this.—about 6 oz. –  or more, if you like.

Optional: Little cocktail drinks umbrellas – often found at dollar stores or liquor stores.


12 Oz. Mascarpone Cheese ( an Italian creamy cheese sold usually in 8 oz. containers)

3 Tbsp. Powdered Sugar

2 Tbsp. Sambuca (more if you want stronger) – if using anise extract use LESS)


It is best to stuff the berries the day you want to use them.

Mash the mascarpone cheese in a bowl.

Add powdered sugar and Sambuca. Mix well and refrigerate until ready to stuff the berries.

Berry 6

Wash your berries and pat dry – Leave the hulls on. Your guests can use them as little handles!

Slice a sliver off the bottom of each berry horizontally. This will make them sit more easily on a plate.

Berry 3

Horizontally slice off the top 1/4 or 1/3 of each berry to use as a top.

Berry 2

Using a melon baller or a small spoon – scoop out a little of the remaining berry. Discard that part or EAT IT!

Berry 4

Berry 5

Spoon stuffing on bottom half of each berry that you just scooped out.

Top with  the slice of berry you previously cut off.

Melt the dark chocolate – Use for drizzle for the berries and also to drizzle on the plate for a “water effect”.

Stick a tiny drinks umbrella in your berries – very festive –  and makes it easy to pick up the berries.

Strawberries Stuffed RW_042313_0041

OR TRY THIS: Take the top part of the berry and stand it on top like a little “sail”!!

1305_Strawberry Boat_002

These STUFFED STRAWBERRY BOATS are so pretty and so much fun to offer to your guests that you’ll want to launch your own flotilla today! To serve – try a crisp, bubbly Prosecco ! Buon Viaggio!


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Granita di Caffee con Panne with script

Buon giorno!

Memories can be such nuggets of bliss! It’s funny how some of the little ones just stick with you. Many years ago, when I was very young, my mother and father (Loretta and Attilio) visited Italy for the first time after my father’s initial crossing to Ellis Island as a child. It was a huge event for them, and they returned home with so many stories of fabulous eating and sampling. The one that always jumps to my mind is Attilio’s account of his first encounter with GRANITA DI CAFFE CON PANNA – an icy form of espresso with cream.He talked about it longingly afterward. It always remained a part of the special memories of his return to Italy.

Years later, on a visit of my own, I arrived in Rome very late at night and hurried from Leonardo da Vinci Airport to a small pensione on the Via Porta Pinciana called the Bellavista Milton (probably long gone by now!) overlooking the gorgeous Villa Borghese Gardens. I dropped my bags and beat a hasty path around the corner to the Via Veneto and a sidewalk café – to do what? That’s right! The very first thing I did in Rome was to sample that special iced espresso treat that my father had talked about for all those years before. Was it really THAT special? Answer: to a coffee drinker – it was heaven! You can bet, I enjoyed several more before I left.

Whether you like coffee or espresso – you will love this – especially in the summertime. Using espresso, it has every bit of the “jolt” you’d expect, but tempered with a sweetness and the velvety smooth texture of whipped cream. Now, there is no reason why you can’t make this with regular coffee or even decaf. However, I will say that the espresso carries it to a height that coffee cannot reach and offers the sharpest contrast to the cream. So I’ll leave the choice to you! It is a wonderful summer pick-me-up on a hot afternoon or at the end of a beautiful evening or dinner whether in Roma, On the Patio,or anywhere.

Pronounce: To say Granita – think: Grah-nee-tah – with emphasis on the NEE.

What is it: Granita is just ice crystals made from any liquid. The liquid can be fruit as well as coffee or espresso. In this case, the coffee is frozen and scraped to form little ice crystals. The “edge” from the jolting caffeine is softened somewhat with a little sugar and whipped cream. Iced coffee it’s NOT! So, what’s the big deal? There is something wonderful about those cold slivers of coffee hitting your tongue on a hot day – followed by the smoothness of the whipped cream that sneaks into every mouthful.

When in Rome: Rome is perhaps the most famous city in Italy for Granita Di Caffe Con Panna. It can be found in many cafes and in almost any gelateria. However, the hunt for the very best narrows to two espresso bars: Sant ‘Eustachio and Tazza D’Oro near the Pantheon. There is a huge battle that rages between the two for the top spot. The rivalry extends even to how the sugar is combined with the espresso including the timing and temperature. The sugar is very important because it is said to be the key ingredient  which produces the highly prized crema in the espresso. The baristas are secretive and even hide when they add the sugar so as not to release their technique. There is not a soul in Rome who is not familiar with it, and they all know where to get their favorite preparation.

How to serve: This “almost” espresso, “almost” ice, “almost” dessert find its perfect season in the summertime when it is sometimes just too hot to serve a heavy dessert. On a hot afternoon, it can be a great icy “pick-me-up” – perfect after a bike ride or a run. After dinner, it is a light and settling end to a great dinner when you don’t want a heavy course – yet you don’t want the meal to end just yet. Served outside – it can’t be beat!

Not what you expect: I recently served Granita di Café Con Panna to our good friends visiting from Maine, Tom and Kathy Byrnes. Tom Byrnes said he expected something heavy and strong from the espresso. They were not anticipating the light nature of the Granita , the brightness in flavor, and how much they enjoyed it over all. Surprise! Surprise!

Options: If you don’t care for espresso, you can use regular coffee. Just make sure it is fresh. I do recommend trying it with espresso first as it is amazing! The deep dark richness of the espresso is an experience you will not get with regular coffee. You can also add some flavoring to your coffee or use a flavored coffee, if you like. I like to serve it in glasses so that you can see the contrasts of light and dark in the ingredients. Wine glasses or “Old Fashion” (the drink) glasses are great for this. However, you certainly can offer it in espresso cups or coffee cups as well.

Here’s my take on it:



Serves: 4


2 Measuring cups of Fresh-Brewed Espresso (Substitute reg. coffee or decaf if preferred)

2 Tbsp. Sugar

1/2-3/4 cup Heavy Cream whipped to soft peaks with a little vanilla or cinnamon and 1/2 Tbsp sugar ( you may have some left over but this will give you plenty to work with)

Good dense dark chocolate – grated or shaved


Prepare your coffee or espresso for enough to fill 2 measuring cups full.

While still piping hot, add the sugar, stir, and dissolve completely. Let it completely cool.

When cool, pour into a pan and place in the freezer. When it starts to freeze, take a fork and scrape it, mix it to make crystals. Initially it will be wet as the crystals form.

Granita di Caffe_01

Keep doing this every few minutes – repeat this step until you have a container of frozen ice crystals or slush which appears dry. It will set up fairly quickly. This slush is the Granita! See how it sets up in stages:

Granita di Caffe_03Granita di Caffe_04

(If you want to make it a day ahead, you can use the above method. The Granita will harden –  so just leave it out for about 5 minutes and loosen again with a fork.  An alternative is to freeze the espresso or coffee in an ice cube tray. Just before you want to use it, pop the cubes of coffee into a food processor and pulse til you have slush or Granita. I personally prefer the scraping method as I feel like I have more control over the process.)

The frozen coffee crystals seem almost dry when ready to use.

Granita di Caffe_05Granita di Caffe_06

You are now ready to create!

Begin by adding some Granita to your glass.

Granita di Caffe_07

Then add some of the whipped cream.

Sprinkle on some of the dark chocolate.

Granita di Caffe_08

Follow that with another layer of Granita.

Granita di Caffe_09

Then one last dollop of the whipped cream, and top the whole thing off with some of the dark chocolate. DONE!

Granita di Caffe_10

For Fun: Try adding some cocoa to the espresso powder when making the espresso for this. The result is a little added mocha flavor. Another nice touch is to drizzle a little liqueur over the crystals in each glass – perhaps Frangelico, Amaretto, Sambuca. You probably figured I might work my candied citrus peel in here somewhere, and you’d be right! Serve some chocolate dipped peel along with this icy wonder or even place one on the top. It pairs perfectly with the espresso.

More Fun: Try different types of shaved dark chocolate with this. Have fun with it and try some of these:

Granita di Caffe_02

Lindt Smooth Dark 70%, Lindt Intense Orange Dark, Green & Black’s Dark Chocolate 70% or Green & Black’s Ginger Dark Chocolate

I hope Granita Di Caffe Con Panna becomes your go-to summer surprise for your family and guests. Coffee enthusiasts will love this. You won’t have to go all the way to Rome to get it – but then, that’s not a bad idea either! Til then – see you On the Patio!
Coffee Granita on FoodistaCoffee Granita


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