Posted by: philipfontana | October 11, 2012


Spaghetti & Red Clam Sauce


Zuppa di Clams!


Phil & Geri


     Excuse us for living, but it’s time for the 4th PastaPost. It’s a recipe I’ve been dying to get out to you ever since I started sneaking our favorite pasta recipes into “Excuse Us…” every so often. Here it is! – -Spaghetti & Red Clam Sauce & Zuppa di Clams! As you would expect by now, there is a story and an explanation that goes along with these “gems.” But if you want to shut me up and “cut to the chase,” skip these paragraphs down to the recipe below. But warning, there is a great “hidden recipe within the recipe” that appears in these brief paragraphs!


     It all started (I’ll try to make this brief!) with the old, historic Clam Broth House, the corner of River Street and Newark Street, Hoboken, New Jersey. It was there from 1899 until 2004, when its landmark façade buckled due to work by construction workers, and the building was condemned and destroyed. (A new “Biggie’s Clam Bar” opened on the very same spot in 2010, under new ownership, and is slowly getting worthwhile reviews.) Anyway, my introduction to the Clam Broth House was my parents and their friends going there when I was a kid in the 1950’s and 60’s. Then we young adults in our 1960’s college years and beyond into our 1970’s adulthood enjoyed the restaurant. Among its many “claims to fame” was the appetizer called “Zuppa di Clams.” It was served in an old tin pot right on the table with the lid to keep it piping hot. All we knew was that it was fresh clams in a red garlicky sauce that “you could die for.” It was served with seemingly endless Italian bread and butter to dip in the sauce “to your heart’s content.” As college kids, we never did get to order a main dish, but kept ordering several pots of the zuppa appetizer. Returning as adults, we learned to savor the zuppa followed by a sumptuous ethnic entrée with wine and a good Italian dessert with expresso.


     Fast forward to married life and our story of “Friday Night,” chronicled in an earlier “Excuse Us…” post, and cooking up our favorite pasta recipes. (Those recipes are also in previous posts here!) This one I left to wife Geri. After sampling Zuppa di Clams at the Clam Broth House with me, I asked Geri to try to replicate that taste, the Clam Broth House recipe for “zuppa.” She capably did so and it was delicious…as good as the original! We liked it so much, we expanded the concept into a recipe for Spaghetti & Red Clam Sauce as well! (One cannot live by mere White Clam sauce alone!) Truth be told, we love the recipe so much that we more often never get to the pasta, but most times enjoy Zuppa di Clams eating all the Italian or French bread and butter we want “with abandon,” accompanied by a nice Italian salad and plenty of dry red wine.


     The hidden recipe! Here are all the ingredients for Zuppa without the clams & without the red sauce, ready to pour over pasta! Read on!

     Ah, but here’s that “hidden recipe” I referred to above. It’s a well kept secret. Just two years ago, I had one of my “pasta inspirations” that only Geri can pull off. I said, “Wouldn’t it be good to make a pasta with all those good ingredients for ‘the zuppa’ that smell ‘out of this world’ as we cook it and just stop?!” – -No clams, no red sauce. Geri said, “It sounds good!” and “We should try it!” We did. And it was! Then the piece de résistance, what to call it. Never at a loss in the naming category, I upped and said, “This is so good. It’s the ultimate! It has to be ‘Pasta Ba Fongull’!” And so it was and has been ever since. A star was born! What is it called? After all it was serendipity…discovered by accident! Maybe I should have called it “Pasta Serendipity.” But I like my naughty name better!



                                                  …Spaghetti & Red Clam Sauce


                                                          Zuppa di Clams


1/2 cup canola oil

1 small onion sliced thin

20 cloves garlic sliced long (if you’re daring!)

4  3” links Italian sausage browned in a frying pan & sliced, hot or sweet (hot is better!)

2 tsp oregano

3/4-1 tsp red pepper flakes

5 tsp fennel seed

1 can flat anchovy fillets minced (optional)

5 large sprigs parsley chopped

(Stop here & you have the makings of Pasta Ba Fongull’ ! Just pour over pasta!)

3  24 oz. jars meat sauce

1  10 oz. can baby clams & liquid

1½ dozen fresh clams, Littleneck or Topneck by choice (recommend Topneck for size!)

1/2 lb. spaghetti (Your favorite! Recommend Vermicelli!!!)

Or, just skip the pasta & serve with 1 loaf Italian/French bread! (our favorite choice!)

Or, “pig out” with both pasta & bread & “do your thing”

In a large sauce pot sauté onion & garlic in oil ‘til soft, not brown. Add sausage, oregano, red pepper, fennel seed, anchovies, & parsley. Simmer 5 minutes.

(Stop here for Pasta Ba Fongull’ & just pour over pasta!)

Add 3 jars meat sauce. Cook fresh clams in small batches of 5 or so (rinse first) in sauce with pot lid on ‘til they open. Remove clams as they open & add more clams ‘til all are opened. Add can of baby clams & liquid. Now return all those opened fresh clams into the sauce & heat gently.

Cook pasta in boiling salted water ‘til al dente. Drain & toss with small amount of sauce. Serve sauce & clams over pasta.

Or, serve with Italian/French bread & butter to dip in sauce.

Or, combine the above & have a great time!

Makes 2 generous servings

   Excuse us for living, but again this is another favorite pasta recipe of ours, but with triple the possibilities!

     Comments: Now or maybe after you make one of these dishes!


  1. thanks for the great memories and recipes- you guys know how to live-

    • Bob, Thanks so much! Coming from “the master” of how to live life & enjoy, we sincerely appreciate it! Look over the recipe or try it & let us know what you think! I love the one Pasta Ba Fongull’ too without the clams & sauce!!! Phil

  2. Hi Phil & Geri!
    Such an interesting read…! We are not big clam lovers, sooo I think i will try the recipe “pasta Ba Fongull”…what does the last 2 words mean in Italian? Just wondering. thx!

    • Margaret! Darn those clams! Sorry! I was thinking of you to do this with red sauce because you like it! The “Pasta Ba Fongull'” is really good though! TOPS!!! –“The die for.” Translation is not proper/polite. In Italian it is considered comical! –In English, a foul curse… the worst!!! –My father’s favorite expression! He & my uncle would say it in Italian even in the presence of their own mother, my grandmother Vinnie Fontana, & she would laugh! In English, Americans translate it literally as “F— You!” But in the Italian mentality of the language, it translates as “Go F yourself!” Now that may seem to be no difference, but to the Italians it makes them laugh! Thanks as always! Hi to Jim!!! “Mangia!” Phil & Geri too!

      • well phil & Geri- now I know the “meaning” of the word Fongull…lol….that really made me laugh! I have already printed it out for future use. I forgot to tell you that I LOVE all your quirky faces in the photos-
        have a swell weekend!

  3. Ah, the Fontana’s.
    Off on another journey. Even if it is just a trip to the marvelous kitchen. Where the essence of life is discovered. Superb story of the birth of no other. “Pasta Ba Fungul”, multi Bueno. Good stuff. Oh, the aroma. Love clams and garlic. MaryLouise, does not favor seafood cuisine. So, ergo, Johnny boy must add this to the menu on occasion. Pictures of you enjoying this sumptuous dish. Ah, the music, smell and Oh, the delicious wine. Bravo! Years of excellent dining.

    • Pacheeck, I see you spelling it that way lately & not Pacheec! Oh, that’s right! Mary Louise & fish! Forgot that! You can try it when Jon makes the red zuppa with pasta &/or bread. And then you all can feast on Pasta Ba Fongull’….it is sooooo good! And thanks as always for your nice comments…always so warm & colorful re the music, aroma, the wine! Phil & Geri too!

  4. Hi my friend! I want to say that this post is amazing,
    great written and come with almost all vital infos. I would
    like to peer extra posts like this .

    • Many thanks for you kind comments on my 4thPastaPost, Spaghetti & Red Clam Sauce & Zuppa di Clams!” Phil

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