Manhattan clam chowder is distinctive for its use of tomatoes, oregano, and crushed red pepper flakes—additions likely influenced by the tomato-based fish and clam soups of Mediterranean fishing communities. The sweet tomatoes really complement the smoky bacon and salty clams, and the lack of milk or cream make it lighter than its New England counterpart.
2 oz. thick-cut bacon (about 1-1/2 slices), cut crosswise into 1/2-inch strips
3 Tbs. olive oil
1 large yellow onion, cut into small dice (about 2 cups)
4 tender inner celery stalks with some leaves, sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick (about 1 cup)
1 generous Tbs. finely chopped garlic (from about 3 large cloves)
5 cups diluted clam broth, plus the reserved clam meat (1-1/2 to 2 cups), finely chopped
2 medium carrots, quartered lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
1 28-oz. can whole peeled plum tomatoes, drained, juice reserved, tomatoes cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 lb. large Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/3-inch dice (about 2-1/2 cups)
2 tsp. chopped fresh oregano
2 bay leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
3 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Put the bacon in a wide heavy-duty 4- to 5-quart pot or Dutch oven and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until just beginning to turn crisp and golden, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Pour off and discard all of the bacon fat, leaving the bacon in the pot. Add the olive oil and onion and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion begins to soften, about 5 minutes. It’s fine if it colors a bit. Add the celery and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened, about 7 minutes more. Add the clam broth, carrots, tomatoes, tomato juice, potatoes, oregano, bay leaves, 1/4 tsp. black pepper, and the red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to maintain a simmer and cook, uncovered, until the potatoes and carrots are tender, about 15 minutes.
Remove the soup from the heat, wait until it stops simmering (this may take a minute if you’re using a Dutch oven), and stir in the clams and chopped parsley. Discard the bay leaves and season to taste with additional black pepper, if desired.