Top | Margarett Waterbury

Pasta with Clams, Leeks, Ham, and Potatoes

(recipe, Margarett Waterbury)


Cooking the pasta in water that has been boiled with the clam shells really helps get every bit of flavor out of the clams and onto your plate — plus it results in a bowl full of pretty, cleaned clam shells to admire.


  1. 2 Tbsp. butter
  2. ½ cup dry white wine
  3. ½ cup water
  4. 2 lb. small clams (such as Manila), scrubbed under running water
  5. 6 to 7 small leeks, green tops removed and set aside, white parts trimmed and chopped (about 1 heaping cup, chopped)
  6. 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  7. 2 oz. smoked ham, roughly chopped
  8. 2 (8 ounces total) medium waxy potatoes, diced into ½-inch cubes
  9. 1 lb. dried pasta (skinny pasta like linguini is traditional, but rigatoni is also good)
  10. 1 lemon, zested
  11. Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. In a large skillet or sauté pan, bring the butter, wine, and water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the clams, then cover and steam for 5 minutes, until the clams open.
  2. Remove the pan from the heat. Set aside 20 clams in their shells as a garnish. Remove the meat from the remaining clams, then place the empty shells in a large stockpot with the leek tops. Set aside the steaming liquid, and return the empty pan to the stove.
  3. Fill the stockpot with water and bring it to a boil; let it boil, covered, for at least 10 minutes. (This step, while skippable, infuses the pasta cooking water with flavor and adds a lot to the end product.)
  4. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil over medium heat in the now-empty skillet. Add the ham and potatoes, and cook, stirring once or twice, for 10 to 15 minutes, allowing both the potatoes and ham to develop some browning. Add the leeks, and cook for a few minutes more, until the leeks soften. Then, add the reserved clams and cooking liquid, lower the heat, and allow to simmer while you cook the pasta.
  5. Remove the clam shells and leek tops from the stockpot with tongs or a strainer. Add the pasta to the boiling water, and cook until al dente. Reserve a cup of the cooking water before draining.
  6. Add the pasta to the skillet containing the clam sauce, tossing to coat. Add cooking water by tablespoons if the sauce seems scant or dry, then finish with the lemon zest and seasoning to taste — but definitely taste first, as the shells and clams themselves can impart a significant saltiness.
  7. Plate the pasta and serve, garnished with the reserved whole cooked clams.