Serves 8

FOR THE SOUP:

4 pounds paste tomatoes, cored, rough-chopped

1 cup packed fresh basil leaves

1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoons plus 1⁄2 teaspoon salt, divided

1 cup medium-diced Spanish onion

1 cup medium-diced celery

1 cup medium-diced carrot

12 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup vegetable stock

Pepper, to taste

16 cherrystone clams

3⁄4 cup white wine

40 mussels

16 medium white shrimp, peeled and deveined

FOR THE SAFFRON CREAM:

1 clove garlic

1⁄2 teaspoon saffron

1⁄2 cup cream

Pinch salt

In a nonreactive pot, combine the tomatoes, basil, sugar, and 2 tablespoons of the salt; simmer, covered, over low heat for 45 minutes. Strain the tomato mixture through a mesh strainer or china cap into a bowl, pressing on the solids with a ladle to capture all the liquid. Place the onion, celery, carrot, garlic, olive oil, and remaining 1⁄2 teaspoon salt in a heavy-bottomed nonreactive pot and cook for 15 minutes, until the vegetables have begun to soften. Add the strained tomato mixture and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer until it thickens slightly, about 10 minutes. Transfer the soup to a blender and blend until smooth, adding up to a cup of vegetable stock to thin the liquid, if necessary. Season to taste with salt and pepper as needed.

Meanwhile, place the clams and the white wine in a separate pan with a lid and bring to a boil. Add the mussels and shrimp, cover again, and reduce the heat to medium. Simmer 3 minutes, or until all the clams and mussels are open.

MAKE THE SAFFRON CREAM:  Slice the garlic lengthwise into seven or eight thin slices. In a hot, dry pan over a high flame, add the garlic slices and cook 1 minute. Add the saffron and toast 10 seconds. Add the cream and salt and reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer 2 minutes and strain through a mesh strainer.

FINISH THE DISH:  When you’re ready to serve, heat up the tomato soup and the shellfish separately. When it’s hot, pour the tomato soup into bowls, dollop the Saffron Cream in the middle, and arrange the seafood around the periphery of the bowl.