David Leite’s Cataplana (Portuguese Clams and Sausage)

By Yankee Editors

May 19 2022


Portuguese Clams and Sausage

Photo Credit : Nuno Correia

In “Winter Scenes” (season 6, episode 8) Amy meets food writer and media personality David Leite, founder of the James Beard Award-winning website Leite’s Culinaria, in his hometown of Fall River, Massachusetts. David shares how growing up in his Portuguese family within this heavily Portuguese community shaped his career. After getting an insider’s look at Portugalia Marketplace, courtesy of David’s friend Michael Benevides, Amy and David head to the kitchen to cook the traditional Portuguese dish of cataplana stew with clams and sausage.

A cataplana, a fixture in the Algarve, Portugal’s southernmost region, is kind of a spiritual cousin to the pressure cooker. Shaped like a giant clam, the hinged pan clamps down during cooking, locking in the juices of its contents. When carried to the table and popped open, it fills the room with steam redolent of the sea. If you’re bereft of a cataplana, a Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid works perfectly, if less attractively.


6 to 8 servings


3 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces chouriço, linguiça, or dry-cured smoked Spanish chorizo cut into 1/4-inch coins
One thick slice presunto, Serrano ham, or prosciutto trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
2 medium yellow onions cut lengthwise in half and sliced into thin half-moons
1 Turkish bay leaf
4 garlic cloves minced
One can (28 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes preferably San Marzano, drained and chopped
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
4 pounds small clams, such as cockles, manila, butter, or littlenecks scrubbed and rinsed
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley leaves


Heat the oil in a large cataplana or a pot with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Dump in the chouriço and presunto and cook, stirring occasionally, until touched with brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Lower the heat to medium, add the onions and bay leaf, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Stir in the tomatoes and any accumulated juice, wine, and paprika.

Discard any clams that feel heavy (which means they’re full of sand), have broken shells, or don’t close when tapped. Plonk the clams in the pot and turn the heat to high. If using a cataplana, lock it and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, shaking occasionally, until the clams open, 5 to 10 minutes. If using a Dutch oven, cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until the clams open, 5 to 10 minutes.

Carry the cataplana or Dutch oven triumphantly to the table, making sure everyone’s watching, and then release the lid (being careful of any steam). Bask in the applause. Toss out the bay leaf and any clams that refused to open. Season with a few grinds of pepper, shower with parsley, and ladle the stew into wide shallow bowls. Oh, and have a big bowl on hand for the shells.