How to Make Frank Pepe’s Famous White Clam Pizza

Mj 618_348_how to make frank pepe s famous white clam pizza
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It’s one of those things that sounds like sacrilege unless you’ve actually tried it: New Haven-style pizza, specifically the kind you get at Frank Pepe’s, is constantly being called the best in America. Forget your greasy New York Slice or your Chicago style deep dish, real aficionados flock to the Ivy League city to try what locals call apizza. With its plain crust that isn’t too doughy or charred to a crisp, Frank Pepe, along with no-frills spots like Modern Apizza, has helped New Haven become the town that every pizza fan has to visit before they go to the great pizzeria in the sky. And no pie is more beloved by those that can wrap their heads around it quite like the white clam style that Pepe started making in his coal burning oven that was built in 1936. But what’s so different about it?

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“This is a plain pie with lots of taste,” writes Craig Priebe in his book The United States of Pizza. Situated in the middle of Priebe’s bible for pizza lovers, the Connecticut favorite stands out because of what’s on top of it and what isn’t. The littleneck clams mingles nicely with the garlic and herbs, but it wouldn’t work out with the mozzarella so many pizza places utilize. Instead, the pecorino romano lets the clams take the starring role, and you have one of the–if not the–best pizzas in America that you don’t even have to live on the east coast to get thanks to this recipe from The United States of Pizza.

Frank Pepe-style White Clam Pie Recipe 


  • 36 littleneck clams
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Naples-style pizza dough (recipe)


  1. Make the pizza dough at least 24 hours ahead. Rest the dough on the counter until it comes to room temperature, about 1 hour.
  2. Move an oven rack to the lowest position. Preheat the oven to 500 for 30 minutes. Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Place the clams in the boiling water for about 1 minute. The clams will begin to open. Transfer the open clams to a colander and run cold water over them to cool them quickly. Slide a knife in the crack and open them. Any clams that do not open wide enough to slide a knife into should be discarded. Put the clam meat on paper towels and discard the shells. Pat the clam meat dry.
  3. Shape the dough and place it on the pizza pan or screen, according to the instructions on page 40. Place the clams on the pizza crust, leaving a 1-inch border. Sprinkle with the Romano, oregano, pepper, and garlic. Drizzle the olive oil over the toppings.
  4. Bake the pizza for about 15 minutes, until the crust is deep brown and the toppings are bubbling. Check underneath with a metal spatula to ensure the bottom crust is deep brown too. Let the pizza rest for 5 minutes. Cut it into 8 wedges and serve.

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