Last weekend, I was finally able to cross “cook mussels” off my to-do list. It’s been on there for quite a while. They are one of those restaurant foods that I’d always wanted to tackle in my own kitchen, suspecting it would be easier and cheaper than menu prices seem to suggest. Of course, I don’t know what I was waiting for. I could have happily eaten most of the giant tangle of mussels and pasta myself, if I hadn’t already called in reinforcements to help.
A quick soak and scrub was all it took to get my new bivalve friends ready to go. I’d always been slightly turned off by the need to vet each one to make sure it was fully alive and not going to poison whoever was eating with me, but it was really easy. About five in my big bag didn’t make the grade because they didn’t close tightly as I jostled them around during the inspection. There weren’t any close calls or anything; it was quite clear which ones needed to go.
A light tomato sauce, enhanced with a little cream and a lot of white wine, set the perfect stage for the union of mussels and al dente spaghetti. Sauteing anchovies with garlic and red pepper flakes added an extra briny — but not at all fishy — depth to the slightly spicy sauce. The final dish was perfectly balanced and done so fast I barely had time to cook the pasta.
So, if you’ve never made mussels at home, you really shouldn’t wait as long as I did. And if you have, you’ve got one up on me, but I’m so glad to join your ranks. Either way, you should make this pasta. Try not to give away your own amazement when you put a restaurant-quality meal on the table in less than an hour.
- 2 pounds mussels (I used PEI mussels)
- ⅓ cup flour
- 1 pound spaghetti
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 6 garlic cloves, sliced
- 3 anchovy fillets
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 cups crushed tomatoes
- ¼ cup cream
- 1 cup dry white wine
- ½ cup loosely packed flat leaf parsley, chopped
- Place the mussels in a large bowl with enough water to cover the completely and ⅓ cup of flour. Allow them to soak for 30 minutes, so they disgorge any sand. Drain the mussels. If they still have their beards attached, pull them firmly toward the hinge end of the shell until it comes off. Scrub the mussels with a brush under running water if they are dirty. Discard any mussel whose shell isn’t tightly shut.
- Put on a pot of water to boil for the pasta.
- Heat olive oil in a large pan or pot over medium heat. Add the sliced garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook for two minutes and add the anchovies. Stir and mash the anchovies until they fall apart completely. Cook for another two minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, cream, and ½ teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer for 10 minutes. Add the white wine and mussels. Turn up the heat to medium-high and cover the pan. Cook until all the mussels are open, shaking the pan a few times to redistribute the mussels. They should be done in 4-5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cook the pasta until just al dente.
- Pour the mussels and sauce over the cooked pasta and toss well. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.