Portuguese-Style Clam Chowder

Barton Seaver

Coastal Culinary Academy, South Freeport, ME

"Clam chowder can incite furious debate. Which is better—red or white? If the purpose of this argument isn’t clear to you, you’re not alone, because it really doesn’t make any sense—they ca both be delicious! This popular red chowder originated on the southern shores of Massachusetts, where a large Portuguese immigrant population built thriving fishing communities. Tomatoes, spicy linguica sausage, a liberal seasoning of paprika, and the mandatory slug of nutty Madeira put this soup in a category all its own. If entertaining, make the broth ahead, then add the clams and finish just before serving." - Barton Seaver


  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided use
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons smoked sweet paprika
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 sprigs fresh oregano or marjoram, or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 (14.5-ounce) cans fire-roasted tomatoes, plus 2 cans’ worth of water
  • 1 pound raw or cooked linguica sausage, thinly sliced
  • 1 bulb fennel, core removed and cut into 1/2-inch-thick dice
  • 48 cockles or littleneck clams, scrubbed thoroughly to remove any grit
  • 3 tablespoons Madeira, either Rainwater or Verdelho style
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar


Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add the paprika, thyme, and oregano and cook until toasted and aromatic, about 1 minute. Add the canned tomatoes, water, sausage, and fennel. Bring to a simmer and cook until fennel is tender, about 15 minutes. (If making ahead of time, remove from the heat and refrigerate until ready to finish. Reheat gently before proceeding.)

Add the clams and increase the heat to high. Simmer vigorously until the clams open, 7 to 10 minutes. Discard any clams that don’t open. Stir in the Madeira and vinegar. Divide among four bowls, drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and serve.


Serves 4