Risotto-Style Ditalini with Mussels, Clams, and Saffron

For this creamy dish, chefs Tyler Rodde and Curtis Di Fede use a fish stock to cook pasta slowly, risotto-style.

Risotto-Style Ditalini with Mussels, Clams and Saffron
Photo: © Fredrika Stjärne
Active Time:
1 hrs 45 mins
Total Time:
2 hrs 30 mins

If you can’t find ditalini, look for other small pasta shapes or pearl couscous.

Fish fumet is an easy, elegant stock that can be used as a base for many fish or shellfish dishes.  


Fish Stock

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • 2 pounds fish heads and bones, rinsed

  • 1 leek, white and tender green parts only, thinly sliced

  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped

  • 1 fennel bulb, finely chopped

  • 1 (750-milliliter) bottle dry white wine

  • 1 bunch parsley stems

  • Kosher salt


  • 2 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed

  • 2 pounds mussels, scrubbed

  • 1/2 teaspoon loosely packed saffron threads, crushed

  • 1 1/2 cups ditalini (8 ounces)

  • 1 garlic clove, mashed to a paste

  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley

  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for serving


Make the stock

  1. In a pot, heat the oil. Add the fish bones and the leek, onion, and fennel and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until the vegetables are just tender, 15 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Cook over moderately high heat until reduced by half, 20 minutes. Add 8 cups of water and the parsley stems and simmer over moderate heat for 30 minutes. Strain the broth and season lightly with salt.

Make the pasta

  1. In a large pot, bring 3 cups of the Fish Stock to a simmer (reserve the rest for another use). Add the clams, cover and cook over moderately high heat until nearly all have opened, about 8 minutes. Add the mussels and cook until opened, 2 to 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the clams and mussels to a bowl; remove them from their shells. Strain the stock into a heatproof measuring cup. Wipe out the pot and return 3 cups of the fish stock to the saucepan, stopping before you reach the grit at the bottom. Stir in the saffron and let stand for 5 minutes.

  2. In a medium saucepan, combine the ditalini with 1/2 cup of the stock and bring to a simmer. Cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until the stock is absorbed. Continue adding stock 1/2 cup at a time, allowing it to be absorbed before adding more. The ditalini is done when it is al dente and suspended in a thick, rich sauce, about 25 minutes. Stir in the garlic, mussels, and clams and cook 1 minute longer. Transfer the pasta to bowls. Sprinkle with the parsley, drizzle with olive oil, and serve.

Make ahead

The Fish Stock can be frozen for up to 2 months.

Suggested Pairing

"The minerally De Forville Piemonte Chardonnay is a wonderful match for shellfish and complements floral saffron," says Oenotri’s wine director, Sur Lucero.

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