Pork and paprika are two heavy-hitting Spanish ingredients – when they’re together in a meal, I’m immediately transported back to Spain. This pasta with Spanish chorizo and lots of sweet paprika is no exception. It’s full of bright, Mediterranean flavors that are worthy of a slow Sunday dinner, but the dish comes together quickly enough that this could easily be in your weeknight rotation too.
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The pasta, clams, and chorizo are somehow all the stars in this dish – the clams are briny and beautiful, the smoky chorizo gives salty pops throughout, and the pasta collects all the velvety sauce.
Basically, I wish I was eating this right now. It’s very delicious and very simple to throw together – minus the first cook of the pasta, everything comes together in one pot.
After I came home from studying abroad in Spain, one of the first things I did was buy Spanish cookbooks. The food in Spain quite literally turned my world upside down, and I was so excited to cook with all the new flavors I’d experienced.
I remember trying to locate Spanish chorizo and being so frustrated that all I could find in grocery stores in the States was Mexican chorizo. If your only experience with chorizo is the Mexican variety, then you are in for a treat with Spanish chorizo!
Spanish chorizo is more similar to salami than anything we would associate with Mexican chorizo. It’s made of pork, and it’s dried & cured like salami. It usually has some sort of casing around it that you remove prior to eating. Spanish chorizo doesn’t crumble and is better suited to slicing or dicing. You don’t need to cook Spanish chorizo before eating it (though this recipe does cook it to render out some of the fat).
The best part about Spanish chorizo is the pimentón – that’s the smoky Spanish paprika that’s so iconic. The chorizo is made with paprika and other spices like garlic right into the sausage, so it’s incredibly flavorful.
You can buy both spicy and non-spicy versions of Spanish chorizo, and I like to use a blend in this recipe for just a little heat. I’m now able to find Spanish chorizo pretty regularly in grocery stores now – just make sure you’re not looking for it in the refrigerated meat department. It’s cured, so it’s shelf stable and sold by the whole salami. You can even buy Spanish chorizo on Amazon.
Pimentón – Spanish Paprika
I’m kind of snobby when it comes to paprika. It is one of my favorite spices, but the kind you can buy at the grocery store is not the greatest. If you have a spice shop or international food store near you, I recommend seeking out real Spanish paprika.
If you live in Nashville, then Savory Spice Shop in downtown Franklin is lovely and has good paprika. If you live in Atlanta, the Dekalb Farmers Market has a ton of spices and a good selection on paprika (it’s where the paprika in this recipe came from).
When buying paprika, you should have lots of options. Do you want sweet paprika or spicy paprika? Smoked or not? Hungarian or Spanish? I have 4 different types of paprika in my pantry right now. I wouldn’t use sweet Hungarian paprika in this clam and chorizo pasta where I very much want a spicy, smoky flavor to come through.
The different types of paprika account for the different types of Spanish chorizo. Spicy chorizo = pork sausage made with smoked, spicy paprika. So this clam and chorizo pasta gets a double dose of paprika – you get paprika from the chorizo, and you also add some sweet smoked paprika after sauteeing the chorizo and onions.
As far as seafood goes, clams are way easier than they seem. Store your clams in the refrigerator until you’re ready to clean them or use them. To clean them, rinse thoroughly to remove all the sand and grit from the shells. A quick scrub with an unused sponge or produce brush is extra insurance against grit.
I find clams even easier to make than mussels since you don’t have to debeard them. The same rules apply to both shellfish though – if they don’t close shut when tapped or if their shells are cracked, throw them out. If any clams don’t open when you cook them, toss them out too.
The clams in this clam and chorizo pasta are added after all the other ingredients (minus the pasta) have already been sauteed and added. The clams steam in the broth that’s created from the tomatoes and white wine. They usually take 5-7 minutes to open, and you want to make sure not to overcook them. Check them frequently and stir them around so they all can open up.
I’ve got a couple of rules for cooking pasta. First, always heavily salt your pasta water before cooking. It seasons the pasta as it cooks, and is a very important step.
Second, always undercook your pasta just slightly and let it cook the remaining 1-2 minutes in whatever broth or sauce you’re serving it with. In this recipe, the pasta drinks up all the broth from cooking the clams. The extra starch from the pasta helps to thicken the sauce as well allowing it to coat the pasta evenly.
Try to time it up so that you’re cooking your pasta at the same time you’re adding your clams. Once the clams have steamed open, add the 1-2 minute undercooked pasta and toss everything together in the same pot. The sauce will thicken and the pasta will cook to al dente perfection.
Last pasta tip: always reserve a cup or two of the pasta cooking water. Add it to the clam and chorizo pasta if you find the sauce needs thinning out.
Have you ever refrigerated what was once perfect pasta for leftovers and then found it to be extremely dry when reheating it again? That’s because the pasta continues to drink up whatever liquid is available to it as it sits, so your sauce that was perfect before will get leeched of its moisture as it sits with the pasta. Add a little pasta water so the sauce is thin when you store it and perfect when you reheat it!
I have a feeling you won’t have any leftovers to reheat of this clam and chorizo pasta. It’s addictive in all the best ways.
Spanish Clam & Chorizo Pasta
This clam and chorizo pasta is chock full of the flavors of Spain – salty cured chorizo, briny clams, and smoky paprika all tossed in a smooth, velvety pasta sauce
- 5 oz Spanish chorizo – I like half spicy half regular diced
- 1 medium yellow onion diced
- 1 ½ tsp sweet smoked paprika
- 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 ½ cups large diced tomatoes
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 2 lbs clams scrubbed clean
- 8 oz dried pasta of your choice I used gemelli and was very pleased
- Reserved pasta water if needed
- 3 tbsp lemon juice extra lemon wedges for serving
- ¼ cup chopped parsley
Cut the Spanish chorizo into small, bite sized pieces. Sautee in a large dutch oven over medium heat for 3-4 minutes to render some of the pork fat.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta.
Add the yellow onion to the dutch oven with the chorizo and saute another 4-5 minutes, or until the onion is soft
Add paprika and red pepper flakes to the pot. Feel free to adjust the red pepper flakes depending on your preferred spice level. Saute the spices for 1 minute to bloom them
Add tomatoes to the top and saute 1 minute more. Add wine and cook for 2 minutes, allowing the alcohol to cook off
Add the cleaned clams to the pot, stir gently then cover and let steam over medium heat for 6-8 minutes or until most of the clams have fully opened
While the clams cook, cook your pasta as well. Cook the pasta 1-2 minutes less than the package instructions say. Reserve some of the pasta water when draining.
After the clams have opened and the pasta is done, add the pasta to the pot and stir everything to combine. Allow the pasta to cook in the sauce for 2-3 minutes. Thin out the sauce with reserved pasta water if it becomes too thin.
Remove from heat and add lemon juice and parsley. Serve immediately with extra lemon wedges on the side.