This is a family favorite that conjurs up memories of my father and summers as a kid visiting relatives on the Coney Island Boardwalk. After a full day of activities,we'd sip red chowder from paper cups, then I'd conk out in the back seat of my parent's Studebaker on the ride home to Long island. This is my up-to-date version of my dad's rendition of Manhattan Clam Chowder.
In large soup pot, on medium low temp, heat canola oil. Add onions, carrots and celery. Then add salt, pepper and Old Bay Seasononing and mix to combine. Cover pot, lower heat a bit and sweat vegetables until they're soft, about 5-8 minutes. Add cooked bacon and stir to combine.
Add crushed tomatoes, clam broth and water. Bring liquids to a simmer and cook covered on low for 20 minutes. Cook on very low if the liquids are bubbling too much. Add sugar and simmer another 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning and make sure the tomatoes are sweet enough. Add more sugar if necessary.
Add diced potatoes and simmer on low 15 minutes covered. Add string beans, corn, oregano, thyme and red pepper flakes if using. Cook 5 minutes and add the clams. Stir, let clams heat up and you're ready to serve.