Portuguese Clams and Sausage

These Portuguese clams and sausage are slowly cooked with chouriço, onions, garlic, tomatoes, and spices in a cataplana, the Portuguese precursor to the wok.

A cataplana, a fixture in the Algarve, is kind of a spiritual cousin to the pressure cooker. Shaped like a giant clam, the hinged pan clamps down during cooking, locking in the juices of its contents. When carried to the table and popped open, it fills the room with steam redolent of the sea. If you’re bereft of a cataplana, a Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid works perfectly, if less attractively.

I first had this meaty cataplana 12 years ago in Bridgewater, Connecticut, of all places, at the home of my friends Manny Almeida and Kevin Bagley. Manny, who’s from the same Azorean island as my family, just whipped it up one summer evening. I’ve since had it many times in Portugal, most memorably at an ocean-side joint in the town of Sagres, just east of the vertiginous promontory where Henry the Navigator supposedly built a school and shipyard for his sailors.–David Leite

Portuguese Clams and Sausage

A cataplana with slices of spicy chouriço sausage and sweet clams in a tomato-onion broth.
These Portuguese clams and sausage are slowly cooked with chouriço, onions, garlic, tomatoes, and spices in a cataplana, the Portuguese precursor to the wok.
David Leite

Prep 25 mins
Cook 10 mins
Total 35 mins
4 servings
4.75 / 4 votes
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  • Cataplana (optional)


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 ounces chouriço, linguiça, or dry-cured smoked Spanish chorizo cut into 1/4-inch coins
  • One thick slice presunto, Serrano ham, or prosciutto trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 2 medium yellow onions cut lengthwise in half and sliced into thin half-moons
  • 1 Turkish bay leaf
  • 4 garlic cloves minced
  • One can whole peeled tomatoes preferably San Marzano, drained and chopped
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 4 pounds small clams, such as cockles, manila, butter, or littlenecks scrubbed and rinsed
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley leaves


  • Heat the oil in a large cataplana or a pot with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Dump in the chouriço and presunto and cook, stirring occasionally, until touched with brown, 6 to 8 minutes.
  • Lower the heat to medium, add the onions and bay leaf, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft, 5 to 7 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.
  • Stir in the tomatoes and any accumulated juice, the wine, and paprika. Discard any clams that feel heavy (which means they're full of sand), have broken shells, or don't close when tapped. Plonk the clams in the pot and turn the heat to high. If using a cataplana, lock it and cook 5 to 10 minutes, shaking occasionally, until the clams open, 5 to 10 minutes. If using a Dutch oven, cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until the clams open, 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Carry the cataplana or Dutch oven triumphantly to the table, making sure everyone's watching, and then release the lid (being careful of any steam). Bask in the applause. Toss out the bay leaf and any clams that refused to open. Season with a few grinds of pepper, shower with parsley, and ladle the stew into wide shallow bowls. Oh, and have a big bowl on hand for the shells.
Print RecipeBuy the The New Portuguese Table cookbook

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Cook your clams in style

Cobres de Azemeis Cataplana with the top open

The Cobres de Azemeis Cataplana #24 is approximately 9 inches wide and is traditionally used to make Portuguese seafood dishes, popular on the country’s Algarve region. The most famous dish made in a cataplana is amêijoas na cataplana (clams in cataplana). The cataplana is traditionally made of copper and shaped like two clamshells hinged at one end and able to be sealed using a clamp on either side of the assembly. Made in Portugal.

Cobres de Azemeis Cataplana, $99 on Portugalia Marketplace

Originally published April 14, 2020


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  1. My parents just returned from Portugal this week and surprised me with my very own cataplana. (I love saying that word out loud!) I must say I am very excited, curious, and, most of all, intimidated by it! Glad I could come straight here to get some ideas (other than clams Alentejana) and will be looking into getting “The Cataplana Experience.” As always, you come through for me! Thank you for pointing me in the right direction!

    1. Congratulations, Renee. And it does kinda roll of the tongue, doesn’t it: cah-tah-plaaaaaaaah-na. And there’s nothing to be intimidated about. Honest. It’s a wonderful cooking utensil that you’ll get years of pleasure from!

  2. David – sorry for the delay in my reply, but I just wanted to let everyone know that I found the book at both FNAC and WOOK.pt, where I ordered it from as it was in stock, and they shipped to the US with no problem. It has a ton of recipes – can’t wait to try out the lobster ones!

  3. Hi! I love cataplana, and actually had a similar experience in the Algarve (though at Praia de Castelejo, just a short jaunt down the road from Sagres). I raved about it so much that my Mom got me a cataplana pan for Christmas, but besides a few cataplana stew recipes here and there I can’t find many other things to do with the pot. I’m guessing the book you mention (Fatima Moura’s The Cataplana Experience) is just what I need, but I can’t find it anywhere. Do you know where I can get a copy? It only seems right that someone in my (Portuguese) family be able to cook a few traditional meals! Thank you!!

    1. Lea, I totally agree: Being Portuguese, you need to cook the traditional foods of your heritage. They only thing it’s a bit tricky to find the book in America (although the recipes are in English in the back of it). You can buy it at Portugal’s famous bookstore FNAC, but i’m not sure if they ship to America. You can drop them a line or call them, if you have a program such as Skype.

      1. 5 stars
        I made this tonight and it was absolutely amazing! I also ordered your cookbook which can be found on Amazon with prime shipping! Obrigado!

  4. First, I heard you had your folks on the Today show..I would love to see it if you can direct me to a post. I just watched the segmant from channel 8. As I noticed a flip of your hand, I was reminded of your portrail of “Marco the Magnificant” in our high school production of “Carnaval”…I always knew that you would be more magnificant. I am a little jealous and a lot proud.

  5. I am as enamored of that beautiful copper pan as I am of the recipe! Love how you’ve managed to include both practical knowledge about the cataplana and some personal stories in such a succinct post.

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