Capellini with Clams and Saffron

I am a huge Top Chef fan. So much that my parents bought me the Top Chef cookbook a few years back. However, when I moved, I stored it away and completely forgot about it. I recently found the cookbook again and came across Ilan’s dish: Fideos with Clams and Saffron. My CSA share this week came with broccoli, cauliflower and onion so I thought this would be a perfect way to use these ingredients. Note: I switched up the way this recipe was cooked, used less cream, and added onions and Parmesan. Otherwise, the recipe is pretty close to the original printed version.
1/2 pound capellini pasta
1 cup heavy cream
1 large pinch of saffron threads
1/2 a medium sized onion, chopped
1/2 cup cauliflower florets
1/2 cup broccoli florets
Olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
6 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
2/3 cup white wine
2 dozen clams
1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley

Begin by cleaning your clams. Place the clams in fresh water for 20 minutes, which will help expel some of the sand.
After 20 minutes have passed, take out the clams one by one. Do not just pour them into a colander. All of the sand that was spit out by the clams will be poured back over them if you do that. Scrub the outside of the clams to remove anything that may be left behind. Make sure all of the clams are tightly closed, and whole. If there are any open or chipped clams, throw them away.
Take a handful of the capellini pasta and break the pasta into thirds. Continue with about half the box of pasta.
Using a large saute pan, heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan over medium heat. Add the capellini pasta and stir to coat with olive oil. Stir continuously until the pasta gets a slight golden brown color, taking care not to burn the pasta, about 5 minutes. Remove and set aside.
Preheat your broiler.
In the same saute pan you used to cook the pasta, add 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium low heat. Add the chopped onion and garlic and cook until the garlic begins to soften, about 15 minutes.
Break up the garlic with a wooden spoon while stirring. Add the wine and saffron, crumbling the saffron as you add it in. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Add the clams and pasta. Increase the heat to medium high heat and cover. Allow to steam for 5 minutes, shaking the pan a few times until the clams open.
Remove the cover and discard any unopened clams.
Stir in the cream, cauliflower and broccoli and remove from heat. Transfer the mixture into an oven safe dish and top with Parmesan cheese.
Broil for 2 minutes or until golden brown.
Garnish with parsley and serve.
Wow. This was so good, I’m still in denial that I actually made this! I’m sure what I made is a butchered version of Ilan’s original dish, but even my knock-off  is so good, it is no surprise to me that he won season 2. The cauliflower and broccoli didn’t get too soft and some of the capellini crisped up in the broiler, adding great texture to the dish. This would be a fantastic meal to impress someone with, assuming you have more self control than me and are actually able to share this. Saffron is super expensive so this is sadly a “special occasion” type of meal. But it is pretty simple to make and really brings the wow factor.


  1. says

    I think my post got lost in cyber space. I just wanted to tell you this looks amazing and it’s been buzzed! Nice job!

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