Clams with Wine and Basil

Clams with Wine and Basil

Clams with Wine and Basil

This recipe is somewhat similar to my Clams with Pork and Basil, except, of course, for the fact no ground Pork is used here. Both dishes use Basil along with small, hard-shell Clams, but the version with Pork is Asian in spirit and uses Rice Wine in the steaming medium, while the dish you see above is more Western and uses Butter and White Wine.

Ingredient Notes

The Recipe Card below calls for frozen Hard Clams. It is recommended that you use frozen ones too, as the cooking time is calculated on that basis, and the recipe capitalizes on the ‘Clam liquor’ that gets thrown off as the Clams thaw.

The recipe here is largely the same as the one I use for steaming Mussels but I have incorporated a twist I once saw in a recipe years ago, which involves thickening the steaming broth with a little cornstarch. I was a little hesitant the first time I tried this, but it turned out to enhance the heartiness of the finished dish. As I recall, the recipe in question added relatively more cornstarch than I have used, producing what must have been a pretty thick ‘gravy’, but a smaller amount works better, in my opinion.

The Method

First, thaw the Clams but reserve the liquor they throw off. There should be a good half-cup or so with this quantity of clams. Next, remove the basil leaves from the stems and discard any discolored ones.

Sautéing Garlic with Butter
Sautéing Garlic with Butter

Heat the butter in a deep pan large enough to hold the clams and when it is melted add the mustard seed and the peppercorns. Stir for a moment or so then add the garlic and keep stirring until the garlic is just getting soft but not yet brown. Toss in a splash or so of wine and the pour out the contents of the pan into a small bowl. Set this aside and remove the pan from your burner.

Clams and Basil ready to be steamed
Clams and Basil ready to be steamed

Next add the clams to the pot and scatter over the onion, the butter and garlic mixture from the small bowl and the basil leaves. If it is necessary to stack the clams in layers then add the other ingredients in layers as well. Finally, mix the cornstarch mixture with the wine and pour it all over the contents of the pan along with the reserved clam liquor.

Now, turn your burner to high and when it is fully hot, put the pan on and cover it. The idea here is to get the liquid in the pan to bubble furiously up around the clams. Unless you have a glass cover and can see this, you will need to listen carefully for the liquid to come to a bubbling boil. Once it reaches this state, let everything continue to cook for no more than a minute or so and remove the pan from the heat. Let it sit covered for a minute or two and then transfer the clams to serving bowls. Serve along with some nice crusty bread to sop up the broth.

Your Recipe Card:

Clams with Wine and Basil

These Clams with Wine and Basil are steamed with lots of Garlic, Butter, and other seasonings, and make a great appetizer with crusty Bread.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time5 mins
Servings: 2
Author: John Thompson


  • 2 pints 1 liter frozen Hard-shell Clams
  • 1 bunch of Basil
  • 2/3 cup White Wine
  • 6 large cloves of Garlic finely sliced
  • ½ small Onion finely sliced
  • 3 tbsp. Butter
  • 1 tsp. Black Peppercorns
  • 1 tsp. White Mustard Seed
  • 1 tsp. Cornstarch blended with 2 tbsp. Water


  • Thaw the Clams and reserve at least ½ cup of the liquor thrown off.
  • Remove the Basil leaves from the stems and discard any discolored ones.
  • Heat the butter in a pan and saute the Mustard Seed, Peppercorns, Garlic, and a Tablespoon or two of Wine until the Garlic is softened but not browned. Remove the butter and seasonings to a bowl.
  • Arrange the clams, Onion and Basil in a steaming Pan, mix the Cornstarch slurry with the Wine and stir in butter and seasonings, and pour over the pan contents.
  • Cover the pan and bring to a vigorous boil over high heat.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and let sit covered for a two or three minutes.
  • Plate and serve while still hot.

Comments, questions or suggestions most welcome!