These stuffed clams are a Rhode Island specialty! Large clams can be tough because of their size—but when steamed and chopped, they add bite and briny flavor to a soft, chorizo-vegetable stuffing. Finished in the oven for a golden Parmesan crust, this is a fun, satisfying appetizer to eat, straight from the shell.
Steam clams: Preheat oven to 350 F. Rinse clams in water to remove any sand or grit. (Alternatively, clams can be soaked in water up to 1 hour.) In a large Dutch oven over high heat, bring 1 inch of water to a boil. Add clams to the boiling water; cover and reduce heat to medium. Cook until clams are open, 7–10 minutes, checking after 5 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables.
Vegetables: Small-dice the onion. Remove and discard the seeds and white ribs from bell pepper, then small-dice. Trim away the top and bottom of the celery, then small-dice. Roughly mince the garlic. Set all the vegetables aside.
After 5 minutes, check the clams; transfer the ones that have opened to a bowl. Continue steaming the remaining clams until they are all open, discarding the ones that are cracked or don’t open; reserve the clam broth in the Dutch oven. Allow the clams and clam broth to cool.
Stuffing: In a large sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter. When foamy, add vegetables and sweat until soft, stirring occasionally, 6–8 minutes. Meanwhile, remove clams from their shells; set the shells aside. Optional: Cut the clams in half, then remove and discard any dark detritus in the bellies. Roughly chop the clams, then set aside.Separate the clam shells at their hinges; rinse and dry, then pick 12 of the nicest-looking half-shells and scrape off any muscle that remains attached. Set aside.
When the vegetables are soft, add the chopped clams, chorizo, and red pepper flakes. Stir and cook until the chorizo fat begins to render, 1–2 minutes. Meanwhile, place Ritz crackers in a plastic zip-top bag. Crush into a coarse meal using a rolling pin, and set aside. (Note: If using unseasoned breadcrumbs, add a pinch of dried parsley, dried thyme, and dried oregano, and mix to combine.)
Set a coffee filter into a small bowl. Strain about 1 cup of the reserved clam broth through the filter to remove sand and impurities. Set aside the strained broth.To the clam mixture, add ½ cup breadcrumbs, the crushed crackers, and ½ cup strained broth. Stir to combine, adding more breadcrumbs as necessary for a moist, stuffing-like consistency. Turn off heat and let cool, 10 minutes.
Bake: Place the 12 clean, dried shells on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Heap each shell with plenty of clam stuffing, lightly packing it so nothing spills out. Top with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Bake until Stuffies are heated through and begin to brown on top, 15–20 minutes.When Stuffies are lightly brown, turn on the broiler. Place the tray on the top rack, 6 inches from the heat source, and broil until brown and crusty on top, about 2 minutes. (Keep a close eye on the Stuffies so they don’t burn!)
Remove from oven and arrange shells on a serving platter. Serve immediately, with lemon wedges and hot sauce on the side.