Down the street there is a great Italian restaurant with an attached deli and grocery store that serves an excellent white clam pizza. My husband hesitated the first time we ordered it, as he is a traditionalist when it comes to his pizza. He typically wants the red sauce, a thin crust, and New Jersey style. Regardless of the toppings and sauce you believe needs to be on a pizza, this pizza will satisfy a craving you didn’t know existed. The white sauce is garlicky with a hint of basil and the little neck clams are scattered heavily throughout with just enough cheese to hold them nicely in place.
It was pizza night last night and I decided to play around with a white clam pizza recipe, which to my surprise almost mimicked the flavors from Marco Polo’s. The final addition of a lightly tossed arugula salad took this pizza to another dimension. We will be making this one again.
In order to get the best results at home, here are a few tips. A pizza stone is worth every penny. The stone can be set on the base of the oven or on a rack up to the middle shelf. There may be slight cooking differences with the height of the stone. Generally, the crust will cook quicker closer to the bottom, which may be necessary to get your crust cooked quickly without overcooking the cheese or other toppings.
For the dough, both Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s sell a great pizza dough, not frozen. Another alternative is finding out if your favorite pizza joint sells their dough. A few of our local spots have their dough on the menu. Of course, making your own dough is a great option. We tend to do both, however, buying it can simplify things if need be.
When using cheese on your pizza, only use cheese you grated from a block. Do not buy the pre-grated cheese from your grocery store as it contains a coating of potato or corn starch to prevent it from clumping, which also does not allow your cheese to melt the way pizzeria cheese melts. I also recommend placing the cheese in the freezer for fifteen minutes prior to use on your pizza. The cold cheese will provide a little extra time to cook the crust in the oven.
for the white sauce:
4 garlic cloves, sliced
Handful fresh basil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ extra virgin olive oil
for the arugula:
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
2 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ tsp kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tbs fresh basil, chopped
8 ounces baby arugula
for the pizza:
1 lb pizza dough
1-2 6.5 oz can clams (depending on how much you want on the pizza), drained
loosely torn basil
3 c shredded Fontina cheese
parmesan, for garnish, optional
red chili flakes, for garnish, optional
Remove the dough from the refrigerator at least 1 hour prior to topping it. Place the dough ball on a floured surface and knead once or twice until a smooth ball is formed. Divide the dough into two balls if you want to create two pizzas approximately 12″ in size. Place each dough ball in a lightly floured bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit at room temperature until ready for use. Dough will rise while it rests.
Preheat your oven to 500 degrees with a pizza stone inside the oven.
When ready to make the pizzas, place the dough on a floured surface and gently press out into a circle. Pick up the dough and gently stretch the dough while draping it over your knuckles. Continue until crust is about 1/4 inch thick in the center. Place the crust on a lightly floured pizza peal. The pizza does not need to be perfectly round. Make sure the pizza crust will slide before topping it.
Remove the wilted basil leaves from the cooled basil oil. Generously brush the pizzas with the basil oil, and season with salt and pepper. Scatter the clams (be generous) over the pizzas and lay some basil leaves on top of the clams. Sprinkle evenly with Fontina cheese.
Place the pizza in the oven by sliding off the peal with the crust first touching the stone in the back of the oven. Then pull the peal leaving the pizza on the stone in the oven. Cook the pizza for about 6-8 minutes for a 12″ pizza. Remember, if you made your crust thin initially it will not take very long to cook. If it was slightly thicker or you used all the crust for one pizza, then it may take 10-12 minutes. It is good to see a nice golden browning of the crust. Slide the peal under the cooked pizza crust and remove from the oven. Let the pizza rest.
Meanwhile, whisk together ¼ cup olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and basil. Toss the arugula in a large bowl with just enough vinaigrette to moisten. You want to arugula to be slightly moist and not wet. When the pizzas have rested for a couple of minutes, place a large bunch of arugula on each pizza, then cut into desired number of slices, and serve immediately.